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Dos and Don’ts When Discussing Someone’s Mental Illness

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by Conscious Reminder

Mental illness is a sensitive subject and it takes courage for people to share their stories.

Lately, human beings are coming together as a community to strive and share their experiences.

There is an urgent need to share insights and discuss diverse opinions and understandings without any shame or stigma.

When people are eventually able to diagnose and understand their problem, they feel relieved. This is mainly owing to the reason that people who suffer are often seen struggling to explain their problems to even people close to them.

Societal Complexities Around Mental Illness

People with mental illness fear being judged and shunned by people around them and the society, at large. However, diagnosing the problem gives them hope of being understood as well as validated.

Furthermore, people suffering from any particular mental illness additionally suffer from the way others respond to them. It is an acutely important factor and at most times results in making or breaking relationships.

If a person shares their mental illness, it indicates they trust the person completely. They share a level of comfort that makes them candidly share their deepest fears and emotional experiences.

However, most people are uncertain regarding the way they must navigate during such profound conversations. Keep reading this article to find out the do’s and don’ts to react appropriately.

Things You Should Do

I. Express care and validation

When someone close to you shares their story of mental illness, they deserve to be supported and validated. We can express genuine care and support by engaging in a one-on-one conversation. Body language is extremely crucial so we must maintain strong eye contact, nod frequently, and offer comforting touch.

If they find someone willing to actively listen and believe them, much of their problems get resolved. They find a determination to overcome their problems. Subsequently, we must pay close attention and keep an open mind throughout. Some validating responses include:

A: Thanking them for trusting and sharing with us. Appreciation makes them feel safe and confident.

B: We must acknowledge their resilience and strength for enduring mental illness.

C: Assuring them of our constant support.

II. Offer Your Help

People suffering from mental illness are often scared to express themselves openly and ask for help. Therefore, it is essential that we extend our helping hand towards them. We can do so by:

A: Being accessible to them during their time of need.

B: Offering them a ride to their psychiatrist or therapist.

C: Connecting them to someone who had similar experiences.

Things You Should Not:

I. Interrogate

People diagnosing mental illness don’t need opinions from others. It is disheartening for them to be disregarded or questioned. Hence, we must never directly ask them about their diagnosis unless they come forward.

Mental conditions are complex and require professional help. However, everyone tries to influence and make insensitive judgments to cure them. This often leads to more harm and makes them further withdraw into their shell.

Similarly, we must never make statements like:

A: Telling them that their mental illness is not apparent or valid.

B: Don’t try to give expert advice without being asked for.

II. Self-centred

Often we are faced with guilt for not having noticed or not being supportive enough towards the person struggling. This makes us unintentionally self-centered. We forget to focus on the person and their problems.

Nonetheless, when they share their issues with us, we must take this opportunity to express our apology and support. These moments demand sole attention on ensuring comfort and empathy to them.

Little Acts Go A Long Way

We all face challenging emotions but there are people with additional conditions that require special focus and understanding. Little acts of expressing maturely and skilfully while they share their problems help them immensely.

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