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11 Things To Not Say To Someone With Mental Illness.

As someone with a mental illness that is various levels of out, depending on the platform and situation.  for example on This blog, YouTube, and Tumblr I am fully out about my bipolar. On Google+ and Twitter I am sorta out, as I will post articles and things about it.  Then we come to Facebook, work and most of my social life where I am not out about it at all.  In those realms people have a general idea that I have some sort of mental issue simply because they know me and have seen some examples of it, but don't know what it is, or how serious it is.  In a lot of those areas of my life there are people that say things that really annoy the heck out of me as someone that has a mental illness, then there are things that just the general public say too. So in this blog post I thought that I would share some of those things.

1. When someone says "so and so is so bipolar" simply because they moody in a normal way.  IE go from a good mood to being cranky.  This is really annoying because it not only down plays the disease that is very serious, and downplays the struggles that people that have the disorder go through.  It is not simply being moody it is having periods of mood disruptions that often are very unpleasant and very negatively impact ones life.  Like in a more manic stage it can feel good for a little while but more often then not lots of people like me find things very frustrating as are minds are going so fast that every thing and every one else seems to be going so slow that it makes dealing with other people and doing tedious tasked very frustrating and often causes one to act out and mistreat others because they seem to be purposely getting in your way.  Then there is having the feeling so much energy that if feels like you have drank every energy drink on the face of the earth, it gets to the point that you feel like you are going to climb out of your own skin, especially if you have to do tasks that take any amount of concentration and time to complete. It is even worse if it doesn't allow you to jump around to many different things and basically run through those other tasks.  That and one often makes stupid decisions because they are not as good at judging the risk verses benefits of doing something. I know for me that I would make bad financial dissensions by going on shopping sprees where I would buy things just because I liked them with out worrying about paying for them, the only thing that kept me from getting in over my head was that I did not spend at all when I was depressed and had set up my banking to automatically split things into different savings accounts when I was depressed as I did not have enough energy or will to deal with it.  Which was the saving grace when I was up as I then had the money to cover my over spending on my credit card as it more often then not exceeded the amount of money that I had coming in. Then during the depression it can be darn near impossible to drag yourself out of bed, and even do things such as personal care and hygiene.  Simply going to work or being out in public trying to do normal daily task become a form of torturer as you lie your way through the day and put on your best act that you are your normal happy self, which only makes the exhausting experience of depression that much more exhausting.  You feel worthless, like a burden on the world, and like there is no hope that things will get better.  You start to spend much of your waking hours thinking about killing your self, and how to do it. There are many people that go a step beyond simply thinking about it.   Yet many many people minimize all the problems and suffering by comparing it to someone that is simply moody.

2. Using it as an adjective like "the weather" or any other thing that can be erratic "is so bipolar"
Which again mischaracterizes  the disorder, and again minimizes it.  Bipolar disorder is not a adjective to describe other things that are not "stable" one would not describe a candy as "that candy is so diabetic" because it is a medical disease and not an adjective.  Yet the same people with out even blinking will use the name for another serious medical condition in just that way.

3.  When you ask someone  "have you taken your medication " where the are having symptoms that are not quite being controlled by their medication.  Yes there may be the chance that the person forgot their medication but 99% of the time it is just that the medication failed to keep that particular symptom in check at that moment.  It is belittling as it implies that the person is not capable of taking care of them selves, that they are not able to keep up on their own medical care. Yes it is caring however especially if the person says that they have it is time to stop asking and except their answer.

4. When the person is having symptoms that have not been controlled by their medication at that time asking them "do you have a pill you can take?" Especially when they are asking you for some sort of accommodation to help them deal with those symptoms. Not only is it insulting suggesting that they are neglecting to take something to help stop the symptoms, and that as such they are milking the situation to get something out of it.  It is insulting because for the most part the last thing that someone with a mental illness wants to do is to ask to be treated definitely then some else with out it.  They don't want others to see them having difficulties and they most definitely don't want to be seen as someone that can't pull their own weight. Not only that but it implies that medications are perfect, let alone that they should have a pill for every occasion, which totally neglects the fact that medication is not perfect and that for each medication there are side effects that come along with them too, and that often the more meds you add together the more they can cause even more side effects.  So there is often a reason that the person may not want to have a medication they have to take all the time for the very rare occasion that their other meds don't quite cut it.   I literally have had a manager ask me that question when I had to leave early because some symptoms of my disease where not controlled that particular day by my medication.

5. Asking them if they are having them if they are depressed of up today.  It may seem like you are supportive or concerned, but it throws out the fact that even when the person was unmediated they where capable of and often had periods of time where they where just normal and not in any sort of extreme.  Then there is the fact that when medicated the vast majority of the time they are just normal.

6. Asking if they are having problems with their disorder when they are simply experiencing normal emotions caused by normal outside stimuli.  people with a mental disorder are just as capable as those without to experience the full range of emotions caused by the outside world that the rest of the populace is.  Like I can be happy because something good happened to me with out it meaning that I am heading to the manic side of things, and I can be sad because something bad happened with out being depressed.  Same with every other human emotion that can be associated with one side of the disorder or the other.

7.  Reducing the person to their disorder.  Which many of the above questions do, and especially if you frequently and almost exclusively use them with that person.  Every one with a mental illness is a whole person and their illness for the most part is just a important part but a very small part of who they are.  To treat it like it is the entirety of who they are reduces and even dismisses their humanity.

8. When someone is depressed, to look on the bright side etc.  Basically telling them to snap out of it.  It is very frustrating first off because it is not that simple.  Depression (and any mental illness) is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and as such often requires medication to over come.  it also implies that the person has not though of such things, the things that are suggested are very often things that the person has thought of and even tried, but when your so physically exhausted by doing simple day task trying to do extra things can be darn near impossible to do. Telling someone to snap out of it is not only insulting but infuriating as it says to the person "I know you want to be depressed so just stop it" I mean what person wants to go through the hell that is depression?  The people that say such things for the most part have never suffered through a day of depression, so if you have not suffered through it it is not your place to tell people to get over it or what to do.

9. Telling someone that is depressed that there are other people that have it worse then them.  It only makes things worse.  For one thing they already know that there are people that have it worse then them.  Depression often comes with a feeling of overwhelming guilt So telling them that there are others with it worse then them only adds to that guilt, and that only makes things worse.  You don't tell a person with cancer to suck it up that others have it worse then them, so why would you say that to someone else with a medical condition that?

10. Treating the person like they are a danger to you and those around them.  The truth is that people with a mental illness are no more likely to be violent then the general population.  Matter of fact they are two and a half times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime then the general public. To treat the person as a threat is not only ignorant of the fact but it is isolating, as who wants to be around people that threat them as dangerous?

11.  Dismissing what they have to say as if they are a small child and don't know what they are saying.  People with mental illness other then on very rare occasions are just as mental together as those with out it.  They know what they are saying and are just as capable of understanding the world around them as any other normally functioning adult.  They are not children and it is extremely insulting to interact with them as if they are.  Not only that it is extremely disrespectful to disregard what they have to say, as like any other person and at times even more so they just need people to actually listen to them.  Dismissing them as not knowing what they are talking about only causes the person to further isolate themselves or at the very least try even harder to hide their disorder from every one around them which only serves to turn it into a big dirty secret and makes it feel like it is something fundamentally wrong with them, When it is no more different then if they had diabetes and one would not treat a diabetic like a child simply because of their disease so one should not treat a person with mental illness that way ether.

These are just a few of the things, but they are the things that most get under my skin.  They are things that everyone should be educated on.  I hope that as awareness campaigns grow more and more people with become educated on mental health and that they will learn to stop doing these sorts of things.  As they only serve to cause people with mental illness to isolate themselves from others. These things also make them feel like they have a something that is fundamentally wrong with them and that they should be ashamed of it.  No one should ever feel shame for having a medical condition.

I hope that you guys, my readers, can take something from this, and that you can share it with those in your life to help them to learn about this issue. As always comments are always welcome.  Until next time dear readers. 


  1. I totally agree with every one of your 11 things not to say. Also on my anger points, is when people think that its ok to make jokes about the mentally ill. Some of which is caused, at least I think so, by fear, we joke about what we fear. But still its wrong to make light of anyone's physical aliments, like mental illness.

    Bravo on the great list, it needs a wider readership, these are things that folks need to understand.

    1. Thank you! I really do wish that I had a wider readership, so that this could spread far and wide.

  2. I read this today and thought you'd be interested in the subject.


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