Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say

September 7, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Some people say the worst things to a person with mental illness. They're hurtful and minimize mental illness. Read and see what I mean.

I feel, sometimes, that I am at war with the mentally-well world. This isn’t to say that many of them aren’t lovely or that I have a desire to harm anyone, but I do feel embroiled. And it’s mostly because the well population just doesn’t understand what it is to be unwell. They demonstrate this heartily by repeatedly saying the worst things possible to a person with a mental illness.

Worst Things to Say to a Person With a Mental Illness

Some people say the worst things possible to a person with mental illness and minimize mental illness. Read and see what I mean.Here are some of my favorite worst things to say to a depressed person or really anyone with a mental illness.

  1. Snap out of it
  2. There are a lot of people worse off than you
  3. You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?
  4. You’d feel better if you got off all those pills
  5. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
  6. Go out and have some fun
  7. I know how you feel
  8. So you’re depressed, aren’t you always?
  9. This too shall pass
  10. We all have our crosses to bear

And as a bonus, my personal favorite: We create our own reality.

Ugh. (I'm not the only one thinking about this, check out the worst things to say to anxious people.)

Why These are Stupid Things to Say

Any of those statements shows that you have no idea what you’re talking about. You fundamentally do not understand the concept of a mental illness if you think any one of these are appropriate. I suggest trying it with other physical health problems and see how you feel:

Hey, diabetic, snap out of it.
Hey, epileptic, I know how you feel.
Hey, paraplegic, so you can’t use your legs, isn’t that always the case?
Hey, person with multiple sclerosis, we create our own reality.

You get the idea. No one would think that is reasonable, and it’s no more reasonable just because you can’t see the illness because it’s in my brain.

These Are Hurtful Things to Say

And perhaps worse than showing ignorance, these things even inflict pain on the person you’re trying to “help”. You are saying that:

  1. They could choose not to be sick if they really wanted
  2. Their illness is not serious
  3. They have no “reason” to be ill
  4. Their treatment is wrong
  5. They’ll be better off from it
  6. They would be fine if they would just “go out”
  7. Their illness is minimal
  8. Their pain doesn’t matter
  9. They should just wait for the pain to end
  10. Their illness is just like anyone else’s problem
  11. They choose to be sick

Again, I dare you to tell a person with any other illness any of those things.

And lest we forget, the mentally ill person in front of you is already probably feeling very bad about themselves, and you have chosen to go and make it worse.

Let’s Not Forget, People Die From Mental Illness

Here are the worst things to say to a person with mental illness. Isn't it time you stop minimizing mental illness?The idea that mental illness is serious isn’t something that I made up, it is a fact. Estimates are 1 in 5 people with bipolar disorder commit suicide and 1 in 2 people (yes, that’s half) attempt it. And, of course, there are hospitalizations, work absences, destroyed families, having to go on disability, and so on. This is serious stuff people. It is not a runny nose.

Why Do People with Mental Illness Have to Justify Themselves?

Why is it that just because I see a psychiatrist and you see a neurologist your disease is real and mine is not? Why is it you assume I can will my disease away while you can’t? Why is it that you can expect me to bring you chicken soup when you get the flu but when I get sick I can’t even expect that you’ll stick around?

I do understand that people don’t know they are being hurtful. People are trying to help. I get it. But here’s the thing, my illness is just as real as anyone else’s. Please stop forcing me to convince you.

Update: Check out the best things to say to someone with a mental illness.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, September 7). Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

April, 7 2015 at 10:03 pm

While it may seem like I'm trying to minimize mental illness really I'm not, well at least that's not my intention. I'm just trying to put things into perspective. And to be quite honest I've heard a lot worse things mentioned before
My mother always used to say to me... There will always be people worse off than you and there will always be people better off than you in the world. (This holds true even in the relm of mental illness itself). In my deepest depths of bipolar 1 manic depression and despair I realized this was true and it gave me hope. All you have to do is watch the TV news to know your life could be considerably worse.
When I struggled with an eating disorder I understood on some level what it must be like for the people I'd see on TV literally starving to death in Africa and it made me have more compassion for the poor or homeless who were needy and hungry enough to have to use the services of a soup kitchen or food bank. Although my experience was vastly different from theirs I felt an odd kinship. It's hard to explain
When I was molested by a relative as a kid I had some understanding of what it was like to be a prostitute. Again our experiences are quite different but at the same time simular too
And when people say to me now, I know how you feel, I understand its all about degrees and individual life experiences. Any person that has ever experienced sadness, grief, unipolar depression or bipolar depression has at least some idea of how I am feeling when I say I'm depressed. Or anyone who has ever drank pots and pots of caffinated coffee, suffered from hypomania as in bipolar 2 or mania as in bipolar 1 has at least a clue of what it's kind like to be manic.
The point I'm trying to make here is that I don't usually let these type of comments bother me, I'm pretty thick skinned but of course that's just me. I use it as an opportunity to educate others about how I'm truly feeling instead of staying wrapped up in my own little world. People aren't mind readers
Things are constantly changing in life whether we like it or not so in this regard there is some credence in the saying that 'this too shall pass
When I'm feeling particularly depressed, expecially about finances, sometimes I make myself a gratitude list. It can be so easy for me to get caught up in that poor me mentality... Nobody really understands what I'm going through
As you can tell I've been feeling rather manic these past few days. Sorry about all my ramblings. I promise to make this my last post for a while...

April, 6 2015 at 5:27 am

I also happen to agree with the line that "we also create our own reality" at least in part. That's true for just about everyone. Shit happens to all of us but we also have a choice in how we deal with it. Like the Serenity Prayer says accept the things you can not change and change the things you can. You are never completely powerless even though it may seem that way. You have some choices in how you shape your life.

April, 6 2015 at 3:51 am

I know that it's hard sometimes when I'm really sick to remember that it's not only me that suffers and try's to get my needs met but also my friends, family and coworkers too. It's human nature to be selfish. Relationships are hard to maintain when they are unevenly balanced. That's a sure breeding ground for anger, frustration and resentment to set in. Nobody's perfect but I do try to keep things in perspective.
I try to give back where and when I can but sometimes I'm just so damn exhausted that either the fight or flight response kicks in

April, 6 2015 at 12:25 am

If you want people/care givers to stick around geesh, give them a break. It's no wonder they feel like they are walking on eggshells around us... We are not the only people who suffer

April, 4 2015 at 1:22 pm

While it may be insensitive to say some of these things when someone is really struggling with a mental illness or whatever else in life for that matter, you also have to admit that with some of these sayings there's also a ring of truth to them, such as with
There are a lot of people worst off than you... It's true there are. You may not appreciate hearing that but that's a fact. It doesn't help to focus on your problems 24/7. There other people in the world who are are also struggling to survive in varying degrees
We all have out crosses to bear. It's true we do, of course not all the same type of crosses and the weight of those crosses is different for everyone.
You have so many things to be thankful for... Think about it. Is there nothing in your life that you're thankful for?
This too shall pass. While not true for all people, some people do end up in remission. And while it may take a long time to find relief in the right cocktail of medications, many do. It's important to not lose hope
I know how you feel... As evidenced through shared experiences here some of us actually do know how you feel, at least in part. There are millions and millions of people all over the world who struggle with mental illness. Some of us are a little more private about it than others
While some of the things that people say can be perceived as thoughtless or even mean spirited I also think that some people really do care and truly think that they are helping when they say some of these things. I also think that many people simply don't know what to say to someone who is ill, so they speak from their own experience which may not be your own.

Ivan Offalich
March, 18 2015 at 2:14 am

That is some truly pernicious drivel. What is that: Law of Attraction?, Scientology? Denial does not 'cure' mental illness, but grasping the obvious may be beyond you.

January, 30 2015 at 8:40 am

Mental illness lives off the ideal that you are mentally sick and need to get better, and this is the very ideal that keeps you trapped in it. It is a very clever and brilliant trick to keep you in a never ending cycle of torment. Accept that whatever you think is your "illness" is truly who you are and you do not need a cure. I guarantee you will be healed. I empathize so much with people that think what they have needs a cure, when in reality it is just who you are. I suffered with "gad" for two years because I thought what I had was truly an illness, then I figured out it was just who I was and I was freed.
A good way to put this is "you will never find it if you are looking for it."

January, 26 2015 at 7:13 am

Very good! Thanks for the post. Another favorite of mine is "I didn't raise you this way," and of course, "Let's talk later," when the other person has no intention of talking to you to help you out whatsoever. It drives me up the wall!

A.Y. Marsh
January, 15 2015 at 10:19 pm

I think everyone who's ever tried to explain bipolar disorder has heard this one (usually delivered with a patronising smile): "Isn't everyone a bit like that?"

January, 12 2015 at 6:07 pm

My roommate doesn't understand that I have bipolor. And I keep trying to tell her that but it's like talking to a brick wall. She not nice to me at times and her job coach says I can't do anything until she admit she has a problem. What can I do to make my roommate understand that her acting the way makes me stress and irritable....

January, 8 2015 at 7:18 am

Oppps, I reached my text limit...
He wants to know "why" I did not tell him about the homeless "man". It's been 3 days, much heartache and I still cannot tell him why. He got very angry with me. It's a total change from the man I have known for six months. Can any of you give me insight, suggestions or even questions? I love him...

January, 8 2015 at 7:06 am

I've been dating a wonderful man for six months. First, I should tell you that we are 59+ years old. He has BP1, and has had a good hold on his meds, and has diligently worked a functioning program. He was honest with me, straight up telling me he is BP.
I had zero complaints... And we got along like peas and carrots. Then two nights ago something happened. I live in an area where homeless people are always walking behind my apartment. 99.9 of them I keep a safe distance, but this one very young man (kid really) said hi and respectfully approached me. He needed help. I talked to him for a little, telling him that my apartment complex has strict no trespassing rules. He left, all was good.
Later that night I'd been talking to my boyfriend on the phone for about 2 hours, and that kid knocked on my back patio door. I told my boyfriend I'd call him right back, he asked what I was going to do, I said take care of something. I did not tell him about the homeless kid.

December, 21 2014 at 12:30 pm

I'm at work reading this and I just want to breakdown and cry. The part about the chicken soup and having to explain yourself got to me. I was recently hospitalized and when my "friends" came to visit they were practically interrogating me and they are nowhere to be seen now. It hurts, it really hurts. Everyday I'm faking being okay because no one wants to hear that my life pretty much sucks everyday.I'm just fumbling through each day.

November, 17 2014 at 8:07 am

I think just being kind and speaking from the heart is the key. My absolute most hated phrase is "did you take your meds today?" There is only one person who can say that to me and my nose doesnt get all bent out of shape. Its cause of how she says it and i know where her heart is. I prefer reality. Just say it like it is. My reality includes not telling many people i have bipolar disorder. I realize that most dont get it and never will. This way they cant use my illness against me. Like when im having a bad day, im just in a bad mood according to joe blow or maybe even just a bitch. Id rather be that than "going all bipolar on them" (i am prone to thinking thoughts, when someone is aware of my condition, like oh im not going all bipolar, would you like to see me go all bipoloar on your ass!) or if im being assertive and the other person doesnt like it they cant use my mental illness as a reason to dismiss me. Consequently, i cant play the "bipolar card" either. I have to take responsibility for my actions. Just because im in a bad place (mental illness or not) doesnt give me the right to mistreat others. Ive never been politically correct and i dont expect it from others. I try not to focus in too closely. If my feelings get hurt by someone i love, i muster up the courage and let them know. We work it out. If i realize ive offended someone, i apologize. All this pussyfooting around is what bothers me

November, 17 2014 at 6:09 am

Sorry, last sentence should read, too old to find a new life, it has all past. Auto correct irritates me...

November, 17 2014 at 6:06 am

"All the pain you have is in your head. Do something and you will feel better." "I can't help you, that is the job for the professionals." Words my husband has used. I am too lazy to led to find a new life, it is all past.

November, 5 2014 at 5:57 am

I am the spouse of a Bipolar I man. I love him. I miss him when he's blue. I am lonely so he must be too. I have been with him for 25 years and I can assess his mood swings more accurately now than ever before. I try to cope and be kind and understanding. I bring him his meds, tend to his physical needs, talk to him about how he's feeling and yet I find myself growing old and sad before my time. If I lose me, he loses too.
At 58 years, I am tapped out. The children have grown and are finding their way. So much of my life was spent protecting them from my husband's mood swings and explaining away Dad's sudden outbursts of anger mostly directed at me. The thing is that I tried not to take things personally especially since he never remembered saying cruel things (why haven't you lost your baby weight yet?) or (you lost your looks when I married you). Yet he was funny and interesting and made a good living in sales and it was more often fun than futile.
I won't abandon him. I can't. He recently spent every dime we had in a poorly structured "retirement deal" and lost it all. I wasn't paying attention because I thought he had somehow gotten "less ill" with age. Now I see it was simply that our youngest child had moved out and he felt less stress. I did not know we were fault. Now he has no income, no retirement, never put into Soc. Sec. and I am scrambling to work part-time jobs to support us. This is part of the for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health vow I took.

November, 4 2014 at 5:03 am

I am 60 & have no real family or friends, because my Bipolar1 has taken it's toll. It's true no one gives r illness any leeway. My meds don't work like they did when I was 25 or so. I get really down'and the highs r less. Doc doesn't even do anything. I embarrass my son & I know I'm lucky husband is still here. God foebid he should die first. I wouldn't make it. I should say I also have nargolepsy...very bad...both have gotten worse with age. Bipolar1 is unbelievable no one can understand. I am lonely, that's why I am on here want someone to answer & talk to me. Unless better ways r found to help with our cries...well I hope no one ends up like I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

October, 15 2014 at 4:05 am

I am epileptic. The remarks i have heard are worse. My condition is what is known as "essential epilepsy" ot idiopathic epilepsy, meaning no known cause, no cure yet. So many manifestations - tonico-clonic, partial, muscular rigidity followed by complete loss of muscular tone, more symptoms than the top neurologist in my country knew what tt think of. Made worsr because of wrong diagnosis: bipolar disorder. I am severely allergic to antidepressants and antipsychotics. The psychiatrist was prescribing two drugs the combination of which is lethal.

Nancy Chaffin
August, 29 2014 at 6:34 am

I guess I have had bipolar illness since birth. My mother was on medication for it while pregnant with me. I had a nervous breakdown in college at 18. Chose only counseling no med, because I didn't know about my mother. Married at 20. Moved far from family. Through hiding it, denial, & being told by husband to pray it away, I have was not put on Medication! until 35. My early life was robbed of quality due to many factors!!! If people would disclose info.& discuss physical and mental concerns it may just save a life!!!!

August, 4 2014 at 3:47 am

This is a very good list. You should add "It's just the way women are". My dad tried to use this justification as to why my mom was just "normal" (she was an unmedicated and untreated). Bipolar runs in my family, particularly with the women (though not exactly limited to). Sometimes people try to normalize it with "it seems this many people has it, so it just must not exist".

Patricia Hasselman
July, 15 2014 at 1:40 pm

I don't like unsolicited advice on exactly how I should treat my disease, especially when followed by a threat ("until you prove to me that you are doing this, I can't have anything to do with you.")
Why would anyone think that I need to prove anything to them? I am working with my doctors, taking the meds, and trying - oh, that is another good one "if you're trying, you are lying." I can't stand it.

Terry G
July, 10 2014 at 6:16 am

Unfortunately people think they are helping when saying a number of items on the list. The reality is if they really wanted to help they would research the disorder and learn how to truly help

Robert Thomas Doran
June, 20 2014 at 4:55 pm

This post is spot on. What's interesting to me is that although I am not bipolar, I suffered with post traumatic stress disorder, and the more I learn about the bipolar affliction the more it seems that in my years of suffering with PTSD my affliction seemed to mimick the bipolar disorder. The reason I am certain that it was the one and not the other is that the onset was brought on very suddenly by the traumatic event and that has always been quite clear to me. I also was able to discern a very gradual recovery from that trauma over a great many years and finally because today I am fully recovered with no bouts of depression or rage and I have been for quite some time now. I do not take any medications and I am happily married.

June, 20 2014 at 9:28 am

Thanks for this insight into how our words can affect those struggling with mental illness. It's so important that we think carefully about what we say, so that we can support people rather than discourage them.

June, 18 2014 at 2:37 am

The one I truly hate is: you know I do that too....
Usually in relation to me saying I just want to punch someone in the face.
What this person doesn't realise is that they may want to punch someone in the face whereas I have not only wanted to, have planned the attack in my head and have to fight the overwhelming urge to make the person who upset me pay for what they have done. Then I have to find some other way to calm down as the anger is still boiling away inside.
So I guess it's people minimising the illness to make it sound like you haven't got a problem because everyone else feels the same way.

April, 26 2014 at 6:18 am

I think it's important to distinguish when we are being invalidated intentionally VS when we are dealing with someone who feels helpless to help us and does not know what to say.

Hee Saab
March, 29 2014 at 8:21 am

William: guilty as charged.

February, 28 2014 at 5:38 am

Give it a rest, Mm.
You really don't know these people what they've really gone through. You certainly can't know completely from a few lines in a comments section.
I'm sorry, but you're out of line.

February, 27 2014 at 8:21 pm

I suffer from several life-threatening illnesses: heart disease, lung disease, as well as a couple of other gruesome illnesses. I am not on the pity party bandwagon, and when doctors get all "poor you" on me, I often brush them away with "this too shall pass." BECAUSE IT DOES! One way or another, it WILL pass. I do not have any edge on suffering, and as a person who suffered from suicidal depression for much of my life, I found great comfort in the words, "This too shall pass." So, speak for yourself! We are not all as thin-skinned as you are, looking for put-downs where none are intended. There are NO people who have no problems. Everyone on the face of this planet is afflicted with something. Don't act as if mental illness were in a class by itself. It is NOT!

Ruby Dooby
December, 16 2013 at 10:07 am

Cody and others - you are saying what I'm trying to formulate but it's tricky. Having had and recovered from an illness, or going through an illness does not give one license to constantly point this out ["remember I had this disease for 10 years" , or preach to others about what you've done, or judge others with the same, similar or even NO illness. It becomes ... tiresome? It crosses boundaries of ... manners? Help me here. Aggressively and repeatedly reminding others of what one has gone through or accomplished [surviving mental illness, getting one's Ph.D., loosing 20 pounds] would be what...boring? aggressive? It gets old, that is for sure.

October, 11 2013 at 8:23 pm

Snap out of it? I'm afraid you'll have to. Even people with mental disorders like Bipolar, Cyclothymia, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc. develop a sense of self-control. Sure, you might want to throw a shoe at someone that pissed you off, or snap at someone that have said one of the following, but even the slightest of the mentally ill have a little self-control.

October, 7 2013 at 6:32 pm

People say such unhelpful things because they really can't understand what it is like to suffer from bipolar. If they had to deal with the symptoms, and all the negativity that gets thrown your way because of them, I doubt they would do any better. That is what I think of when people make negative comments towards me because of bipolar. However, admittingly, I still get hurt because it still blows me away that people could display such unkindness and ignorance. And that should always be bothersome. Because an unkind heart and ignorance seems to always lead to mean-spirited behavior, done with a sense of self-righteousness.

October, 7 2013 at 2:26 pm

Wow, c.m.M.
Thanks for sharing all of that.

October, 7 2013 at 9:31 am

To Kathleen Brannon: I'm not sure if you have children so take this for my experience with having one child. Before I was pregnant, I had a fairly regular 26-day bipolar cycle: 2 days of depression followed by a slow, 24-day lifting of mood ... to a height of mania that actually was only hypo-mania. I was an introvert, studied and worked about 16-hours a day and I was quiet. As soon as I became pregnant, however, I became very gregarious, my manic highs changed and included anger and rage, rapid thinking so fast that sometimes it felt like I had a breeze going by my ears and I lost my nearly 3 weeks of hypomania. I splintered. I was moody. I had a really bad temper. One night of lost sleep caused mixed-state manias that I could no longer control. Well as much control as you ever have with bipolar. Pregnancy caused a huge change in me; I would say I became incredibly unstable. I'm not sure what pregnancy hormones have to do with mood though. After I was diagnosed, at age 36, I told the psychiatrist that I wanted another child. He said, "Oh no, please don't do that. I can't find a medication cocktail that stabilizes you and pregnancy throws everything off." ... When I thought about the changes wrought the first time I was pregnant, I knew he was right. This 26-day bipolar cycle that I have means I'm pretty unstable to begin with, even if I am used to it and live my life by it ... I think my 26-day cycle IS stable however; but pregnancy threw that off. And meds don't work for me, but a structured schedule does. I'm 50 now and never did have another child. I'm not sure if your doctor meant that you shouldn't reproduce or if he meant that he was at a loss how to treat bipolar disorder once pregnancy hormones are thrown in the mix. I couldn't, realistically, have survived another pregnancy or, after my baby was born, gone through the months of staying-up-all-night for feedings ... My 26-day cycle is my stability but the slightest thing will throw it off. But, at the time my pdoc said those words to me, I laughed at the desperation in his eyes. And no, my pdoc never did find a med cocktail that worked for me. He did admit that "THEY" didn't know how to treat rapid-cyclers. So I take drugs to sleep, but nothing that stabilizes my mood. I think if bipolar woman do reproduce, they have to keep to a strict schedule of sleep: which means they need help with the night feedings of their infants, and they need to rest during depressions. And they need to know that hormones may change their bipolar cycle, like it did mine. But not reproduce? My daughter is the love of my life and she has come to appreciate my bipolar cycle, now that she knows what it is and can deal with it. When she was small though, I wish I'd known I was bipolar, I could have asked for the help I needed.

October, 5 2013 at 10:44 pm

These kinds of comments, such as 'mental illness is just laziness and attention seeking' are made by people who have no idea what they are talking about, while at the same time have no idea that they have no idea what they are talking about.
It's hard for the puny human brain to tolerate distress in others. Some people respond to this positively by trying to help others in need. Others go into a denial that the other person is distressed. It is this denial that leads to the kinds of comments mentioned above.
It is not so much that they can't stand your suffering. It's just that they don't want to admit you are fully human, like them, because then they would have to admit that they are vulnerable to the same distress.

October, 5 2013 at 5:48 pm

I had someone who was supposed to be a mentor tell me to grow a pair. But the one that hurt the most was someone who had been a friend of my husband since 3rd grade. He said that I chose to be sick because it was easier than working and contributing to society like a real person.

October, 5 2013 at 12:27 pm

Great article with a good list of points.
Most of these things have been said to me, and I've witnessed it being said to others many, many times before. Sometimes it's with good intention (trying to help) and sometimes with a negative view towards mental illness. The ignorance about mental health is concerning to me.
I would like to see this list of points circulated more widely - I think it could help a lot of people.

Kathleen Brannon
October, 5 2013 at 11:21 am

I have a blog composed of "the worst things people have said to you about your mental illness." One I think you missed (?) was said to me by a doctor: So you've been told you should never have children, I hope? That's about the worst one I can imagine, telling someone they should never reproduce.

October, 5 2013 at 11:07 am

Myriad, Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you for your post:
"But it doesn’t give me the right to minimize other people’s pain and problems either. Everyone has problems and pain to endure. It’s not that theirs don’t matter because they don’t happen to have a mental illness. So yes, we do all have our own crosses to bear. And I’m not the one to judge just how heavy theirs is."

October, 5 2013 at 11:01 am

Other things that I do not want to hear from other people:
You should try acupuncture.
You should try meditation.
You should try yoga.
You should try running.
You should give up dairy.
You should take this natural supplement.
You should read this book by so and so or attend this workshop on this topic.
You should try reiki.
If I do not ask for your advice, then these statements are hurtful because they do not take into consideration what I need or do not need from you. You should keep your advice to yourself unless I ask for it.

October, 5 2013 at 10:54 am

The comments in response to this post reflection so many discussions I have experienced throughout my life. Just like Louise, I believe in the power of choice and creating my own reality. I have DID and PTSD and other stuff. However, I do not think that my experiences along my healing journey are going to be the same or should be the same as what others with mental health challenges are facing. So many of the most harmful, insensitive, dismissive, and hurtful comments I have heard have come from others who are living with mental health issues. These comments are based on perspectives shaped by comparison and contrast. We accuse each other of being attention-seekers. We accuse each other of using our symptoms as excuses. We express feelings of superiority if we are managing our symptoms without medication. We think that our experiences are what define the standards that others should follow. If we share similar diagnoses with others, we see ourselves as the experts on what others should be doing and should be experiencing. We think that what works for us should work for everyone else. I hear a lot of judgements from others with mental health challenges. We need to stop judging each other.

Justin S
September, 15 2013 at 11:21 pm

Back in high school a friend of mine and I were sharing a pretty terrible day. He was still reeling from being abandoned by his friends in class when they were called up to present (the two of them had played hookie just for the occasion), and I meanwhile was trudging through the day, pining desperately for my bed. We had a lonely hearts club pow wow at lunch and words got heated. He told me the following when I insisted he didn't know how this felt: "Having crappy friends is a lot worse than having bipolar." There was so much I wanted to snap back at him with but I got too choked up to do anything but grab my books and run to the library. I remember thinking to myself, "And least the two can't compound for him."
He never apologized. It's been years since I've seen him.

September, 11 2013 at 4:46 am

8.So you’re depressed, aren’t you always? Had a close friend say this to me, then apologize the following week. The trouble with that is she says things like that fairly often. She's quite insensitive, and I wish I would get the guts to tell her so.

August, 8 2013 at 1:41 pm

While I agree with most of the article, I don't really see what's wrong with the statement "We all have our crosses to bear". Sure, it does depend on the way it is said, it is ignorant and hurtful if it's meant as "So what, we all have problems. Conversation closed, next topic." But as part of the conversation I don't see much wrong with it, even when I substitute the statement with a physical illness.
Sure, life is difficult with mental illnesses. It's difficult when you're depressed all the freaking time. I don't even know what happiness is. I'm missing half my emotions. I'm often depressed, and when I'm not I'm void of feeling. Anhedonia kicking in, feeling like a ghost, hollow inside. At those times I'll desperately attempt to feel something. Since there is no happiness, joy or other nice feeling in my emotional range, that means I'm trying to feel sad again. Just to feel something. Pathetic? Perhaps, but it's the only way to keep me connected to myself.
But it doesn't give me the right to minimize other people's pain and problems either. Everyone has problems and pain to endure. It's not that theirs don't matter because they don't happen to have a mental illness. So yes, we do all have our own crosses to bear. And I'm not the one to judge just how heavy theirs is.

August, 6 2013 at 6:53 pm

Sorry, hadn't finished then...and submitted by accident.
On this occasion the very man who had been in A&E with me for various health problems both physical and mental,took a recollection I had told to him of my past. I would argue the physician who delt with me in A&E, the psychiatrist and the crisis team (who failed me- but that is a different topic) only knew barr me ofcourse.For clarity- it was of a failed suicide (thank god it failed.
However he took something so personal and sacred and blamed the widely known and proven fact of the many failures of the NHS in dealing with mental illness ...which i had to face in my caseand said:
"Thinking about the time you were begging people to help you and being turned away time and time again, it suddenly clicked to me- the problem isn't an illness or a failure in the system- the problems you."
Suffice to say I left winded, shocked and in floods of tears. How could he?! How could he say that? After the many times i repeat over and over, 'I would never wish depression or the darkness that I have endured on my worst enemy'. After hearing such things and knowing how bad i suffered and still suffer as I feel so much of me was lost and taken away; to still say such- well it sickens me.
Alas, ignorance, ill information and a will to ignore and not compassionately understand. What can we do? When sharing, speaking up and communicating our experiences can be used against us. How can we constantly be brave and fly the flag for awareness and compassion if people will throw our experiences of suffering back in our face?
It won't stop me, but i can safely say the struggle is hard and we are no where near bringing others to understand .
But i will add one more thing, I still don't wish, or ever will wish such darkness and suffering on him or anyone else..enemy or friend.
So thank you for writing. Thank you for sharing.

August, 6 2013 at 6:37 pm

Thank you so much for writing this blog.
I searched 'making fun of mental illnes' on google an thak god this blog came up.
If I could just rewined 4hours prior where my once supportive partner of 2 years commited the ultimate betrayal and used my mental health illness in the past against me.
It had been the final straw and after months of put down comments such as "Your a drama queen" "You crave the drama and feed off it" "You brong things on for yourself" "Things would be better for youbif you just listened" *sarcasticslly* "You're never in the wrong are you"
to what was said tonight. I dont care how heated things get, on an argument or not, I urge people not to use someones mental illness against them.
Especially when its in their past as such, and they are stable and recieving on going treatmemt for it.
I would argue it is the same as someone retaliating by defaming the name of a dead relative, openly harassing someones tradegy be it rape or abuse and stating they were to blame for what happened to them and how others treated them

jessica alcaide
July, 18 2013 at 4:29 pm

thank you.

June, 22 2013 at 5:42 am

A guy I recently became involved with has exhibited behaviours that leads me to believe he is bipolar. I have tried to be patient with him and at the moment he is ignoring me, but I know he is reading my emails. Do you think it is OK to tell someone by email that you think they are bipolar? Or should you always have this type of conversation face to face - what if it simply is not possible?

June, 6 2013 at 8:21 am

Dear Louise,
While I agree with your main point, I am confused by your overall post. "...wouldn't compare heart disease to diabetes"--why not? It would probably be best if we didn't compare any illness; but we're human and we're constantly comparing, evaluating, and drawing conclusions. (and judging)
I loved what you said about "how you may not choose to have your symptoms, but you can choose how to manage those symptoms" I'd argue this is true for EVERYONE with ANY illness, though. (to different degrees of course) Managing symptoms doesn't necessarily mean making them become less intense or frequent. It can also refer to how one responds to the fact that these symptoms exist at whatever level they do.
Dear Ross,
I find your comment of a "real" illness interesting. What exactly does that mean to you? Are there "fake" illnesses that people have? I don't think I've ever heard of a "fake" illness.
As for your other contribution, neurologists do actually often diagnose and treat "mental illnesses" too. Also, I was curious as to what the difference is between "brain disorder" and "brain disease." I've not known of such a distinction, and I would tend to think that the two terms are somewhat interchangeable.
Lastly, in an ideal situation you have both psychiatrists and neurologists working closely together for the benefit of the patient.

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