8 Phrases You Should Never Say to Someone Dealing With a Mental Illness

Mental illnesses are serious causes of concern for millions of people globally. While a high level of awareness has been raised regarding them lately, the societal stigma attached to mental illness is still a significant challenge for those affected. One of the most hurtful things people can do to someone with a mental illness is to dismiss their condition as imaginary or not severe. In the following, we will discuss 8 phrases that you should never say to someone dealing with a mental illness, even if they come from a good place and with the intention of helping.

“You are overreacting” – Dismissing someone’s feelings and emotions as overreactions goes against the fundamental principles of mental health. Feelings of anxiety, worry, and depression are undoubtedly real, and those who experience them deserve empathy and support.

“Get over it!” – Telling someone to snap out of a mental illness or to get over it diminishes the severity of the condition and points out that the person is not trying hard enough. This approach belittles the person’s experience and makes them feel ashamed or guilty for being unable to control their condition.

“You shouldn’t think or feel that way” – Telling someone what they should or should not think is an invalidating experience. People have a right to their emotions and thoughts. Instead of trying to negate or control them, it is essential to provide support and guidance.

“It could be a lot worse.” – It’s understandable to offer reassurance, but comparisons often lead to negative feelings rather than positive ones. It can be dismissive of the person’s struggles with their mental health condition, making them feel overlooked or ignored.

“It’s just in your head” – Implying that mental illness is not real ignores the problem. Mental health disorders are just as genuine as physical ailments and can have an equally severe effect on a person’s quality of life.

“At least you don’t have (insert mental illness) instead.” – Comparing illnesses invalidates the reality of what the person is experiencing. It can feel like you are downplaying feelings and experiences or even making what they’re going through worse.

“What’s wrong with you?” – This highly problematic question emphasizes that there is something wrong with people rather than with what they are feeling and, in fact, should never be uttered.

“Just go to a help center, and you’ll be better.” – Offering a solution that oversimplifies the situation and implies that recovery is immediate can actually discourage individuals from seeking help. While a help center is a highly valuable source of support, it is not an instant cure. It’s important to acknowledge that mental health treatment is an ongoing journey and a personal choice/ decision for each individual.

We should always work to create awareness and break the stigma around mental illness. Words have the power to make or break someone’s spirit. So, if a loved one is facing a mental health condition, choosing your words carefully is essential. If you don’t know what to say, be honest, thank them for sharing their feelings, and let them know that you love them and are there for them. Deciding to talk to you about their situation probably took a lot of courage, so if you genuinely care about them, respond with compassion and empathy.

Managing a mental illness is not an easy process, but given the necessary support and the right attitude, it is entirely possible for the affected individuals to regain control and enjoy a better quality of life.