Sometimes the well-meaning choose the wrong words, and just like the phrase just chill, you can’t tell the anxiety-ridden person to do this. It doesn’t work like that.
You can’t tell them to relax or to stop panicking; the reason is that it is a mental disorder; the keyword here is disorder. What may work for the mildly anxious person will not work for those who suffer severe anxiety.
You can’t tell a depressed person to cheer up or to turn that frown upside down. It won’t cut it; you certainly cannot suggest a nice relaxing bath to make them feel better.
Yes, an aromatherapy bath may alleviate the depression for a few moments, but it will come back as an illness. Depression is not a passing phase of mood.
Telling someone with bipolar they are not making sense when in the middle of a high will not be conducive. Telling them to get some sleep and they will feel better in the morning is a no go.
Offering a hot cup of cocoa to aid them to sleep will not only be ridiculous, but they will stare at you in disbelief at the sheer presumption, a cup of chocolate will solve hypomania insomnia.
What Sort of Illnesses Are They?
More people are beginning to understand a little bit about their own mental health, and the stigma of mental illness is slowly being removed, very slowly.
As we all are human, we are a mixture of emotions, moods, and feelings. When these are out of kilter due to a chemical imbalance, the result is pain, a deep-set pain. Similar to heartbreak and hopelessness rolled into one for depression.
For anxiety, it is a mixture of panic, indecisiveness, being uncomfortable in your own skin and a feeling of the world being out of control or the sufferer being out of control.
Bipolar is a serious illness, just like those above. The high feelings can lead to hallucinations and delusions, which, if left untreated, will ultimately harm the life of the individual.
The depression side for bipolar can rapidly cycle between high and low; this is a hazardous combination. Some feel high and low at the same time—a potential point for suicidal thought.
Saying chill out, or cheer up simply won’t cut it.
What Can I Say?
It’s not easy to say the right words, and there are good things you can say and like the above, poor things, which are not beneficial to anyone.
How are you is a good place to start. Then listen and try not to think of something while the other person is talking, as this will distract. Take on board what they are saying.
It would help if you validated how the person is feeling. Just as you would if they had broken a leg, you would notice and understand they are in pain. The same with a mental illness; just because you cannot see it does not mean the person is not in pain.
If they don’t want to talk, say you will be there for them and mean it.
The main thing is not to say things which the other person can do nothing about.
For example, they might be having trouble getting out of bed; this does not mean they are lazy. Would you expect someone with a fever to jump out of bed full of beans? No, give them time.
When someone talks about mental health, this is not an illness. We all have mental health, you, me, even my dog. We all have the potential to stay well or become unwell. Sometimes it is in our genes; other times, it is based on our history, and sometimes it can spring out of nowhere.
Like the possibility of catching flu, we may be affected by poor mental health at one point in our lives. Just because you may have “pulled yourself together”, serious mental health problems require medication and therapy.
Be there for the person who is unwell and avoid catch all phrases. Be kind, genuine and above all, understanding.
Peace & Blessings x