What NOT To Say To A Mentally Ill Person

June 21, 2012 Alistair McHarg

This is the golden age of political correctness, and for the mentally ill in our midst, it simply couldn’t happen soon enough. Horrible slurs like porridge-head, cracker academy graduate, and el whackadente have been replaced by culturally sensitive terms such as, unreality-enabled, extra-normal, and sanity-challenged.

But removing the fangs from common speech is just the beginning. Increasingly there is sensitivity about what questions may be considered appropriate to ask a person wrestling with mental illness. Here are just a few of the most common of them, now considered intrusive, prejudicial, stereotypical, and rude.

1. Why don’t you just get over it?

2. Is what you’ve got really a disease, or it is it just a character flaw?

3. Did you ever try growing up?

4. Why is there a duck on your head?

5. Have you looked into Scientology?

I’m glad to report that the use of knee-jerk, judgmental questions like these is on the way out. But my feeling is, why stop there? Now that we’ve built up a little momentum, let’s expand the list of verboten phrases – questions and comments simply off limits when it comes to the mentally ill among us.

Here are some terrible teases and taunts to be scrupulously avoided when in conversation with someone of the Whackadoomian persuasion. Please make a point of avoiding them!

1. If you’ve never witnessed human mitosis before, you’re in for quite a treat. Stand back.

2. I’m having an acid flashback; everything depends on you landing this plane!

3. Something about you is different today. Did you glue your hair on backwards?

4. I did an impromptu survey and sure enough; they are all talking about you.

5. Don’t make any sudden moves; there’s a poo-flinging monkey on your back.

6. That’s what you said a minute ago.

7. Alcohol makes everything better; that’s why it’s legal!

8. Why did the chicken walk on the Moebius strip? To get to the same side!

9. Follow your instincts.

10. Just because they’re not here yet doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. They might be tied up in traffic.

That’s it for today. Just remember, not everything that can be said needs to be said. That goes double when you’re strolling through the recently sanitized fields of Whackadoomia.

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2012, June 21). What NOT To Say To A Mentally Ill Person, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

Emma Matthews
August, 19 2012 at 9:01 am

Or try these for size (Yep I've had 'em used on me)
"What you need is to get a job. It'll raise your self esteem and keep you busy so you won't have time to sit around feeling depressed"
"It's your karma"

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
August, 19 2012 at 9:42 am

Good one! (Ironically it's true, which only makes it worse, I suppose.)

June, 22 2012 at 6:08 am

Oh my gosh, that's terrible. I hope you don't get too many responses like that now.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
June, 22 2012 at 7:38 am

That was several lifetimes ago. - I am one of the lucky ones; I made it through the darkest night into the day. - Lately I am all about having as much fun as humanly possible.

June, 21 2012 at 4:34 pm

Great phrases to avoid. I have a duck on my head because he makes a great horn when I'm riding my bike! Seriously though, I once had a doctor tell me that just because you think someone is out to get you, doesn't necessarily mean you are wrong. I thought the principal at the school I was working at was out to get me at that time, I got laid off, so I guess I was right after all. Have a great weekend.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
June, 22 2012 at 1:50 am

It's a pleasure having someone who really "gets" what I'm trying to do with this column. - In the midst of a manic episode, after losing family, savings, job and pretty much everything else I was told to "get over it" - unbelievable.

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