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Monday, June 17, 2013
There are some things that you just shouldn't say to someone that is either suffering from or taking care of someone suffering with a mental illness.

As a caregiver for someone that has a mental illness the following are just a few of the things I have had to hear:

*) I think it is just for attention

Most people do not pretend to suffer from mental illness to get attention. Most children do not pretend to have a mental illness to get attention.  Those that do are seriously horrible people. 

*) Why can't you just be happy?

Oh but if it were that simple, there would be no depression. People could just tell themselves to be happy and poof ! They would be! Depression takes over every part of your life. It can make you physically ill, it can make you harm yourself, or others. There is no escaping it. It never comes in small doses,  you are either depressed or you are not. 

*) They should learn to deal with things better. 

Panic attacks feel like you are dying. Things that trigger them can be anything. Once you are in the throws of a panic attack you cannot just make it stop. When you are depressed it is not necessarily about one particular thing, it feels like it is everything. It is not as simple as dealing with things better. 

*) Calm down.

When you panic or are upset, you cannot just calm down and repeating this louder and louder only makes matters worse. 

*) Telling someone they are stupid/ dumb/ crazy/ etc... because they panic or are depressed. 

This does not help. Screaming at a car because it has run out of gas won't make the car go and screaming at someone panicking or someone depressed will not make them stop either. In fact in this case it makes the person feel horrible and embarrassed or ashamed that this has happened to them. 

*) You are their parent, you were too easy on them/ didn't discipline or love them enough/ you should spank them/ you are a horrible example of a parent.

This does nothing but piss a parent off. No one wants to hear that they may be the cause of their child's mental issues. There is not necessarily an action or anything that a parent may have done to make their child this way. There could be a plethora of reasons that the child has mental issues. You obviously have no idea what the child or parent has gone through. 

*) Little Janie got upset over something silly and I just told her to quit whining and that worked. 

You are not raising a child with a mental illness or taking care of a spouse/ sibling/parent with one, so you have no idea and should probably cease trying to give advice on it. You never tell someone to quit whining when they are hurting. You should console them, not harm them. 

Anyway! I have two members in my family that suffer from invisible disabilities. Many people think that these type of disabilities are fake or can be easily taken care of and that is simply not the case. My husband suffers from mental issues and one of my children suffers from it as well. It is heartbreaking to see them suffer and know there is nothing that I can do but be there for them. It doesn't help them or me when I get a ton of "ideas" from others on how to fix them or stop them from putting me through this repeatedly. It hurts me and if they hear and can remember you saying something, it will hurt them too. Neither one of us needs to be hurt anymore than we already are. 

If you want to be supportive to someone who has depression or panic attacks, here are some things you can do.

*) Listen to them or their caregiver when they need someone to just listen. 

*) Help them find help and encourage them to get help. 

*) Hug them when they need a hug. 

*) Call for help if you think they may harm themselves or others. 

*) Do some of your own research if you think someone may be suffering or feel you may be suffering and consult a doctor before trying to treat yourself. Alcohol and drugs will not help you, they will  make things worse. Suicide is never the answer. Hurting someone else is never the answer. 

If you suffer or think you may be in danger of hurting yourself or someone else go to the nearest hospital and get help.
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Valarie said...

Great tips, thanks for sharing. Some people just don't get it, and saying things like "it's all in your head" are not helpful!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the post. I wish more people would understand. We suffer, and although a lot of the time we r silently suffering, doesn't mean its not real. We may look fine on the outside, but ourillness is on the inside. People can just be so cruel sometimes.

Katy S said...

As someone with more than one type of "invisible disability", I can so relate. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Leanne! It's not easy iving with someone who suffers from any kind of mental illness, whether it be depression or something else.
Kudos for being strong like you are.