VIDEO: 5 Things NOT To Say When a Friend Opens Up About Mental Health

VIDEO: 5 Things NOT To Say When a Friend Opens Up About Mental Health


It’s Mental Health Month and we’re encouraging our followers to be honest about their mental health.

There’s a lot of great advice out there about how to approach someone about your mental health (see link below). But what do YOU say when a friend tells you they think they are depressed, anxious, anorexic, etc.?

Here are five things NOT to say:

  1. You would feel better if you tried harder to be happy!
    Mental illness does not begin from a lack of trying. Depression isn’t cured by “trying harder.” Likely, your friend *is* trying to be happy- they’re coming to you because trying isn’t working and they need more support. Mental illnesses are just that- illnesses. Brain disorders. Your friend’s brain isn’t producing the right stuff she needs to be happy.
  2. You’ve got nothing to be depressed about- it could be so much worse.
    There are a lot of horrors in the world. It could absolutely be worse. That’s not how mental illness works though. It is not solely a response to someone’s external surroundings. Telling someone it could be worse is going to leave them with guilt, not make them cheer up. Yes, other people have it worse- but that doesn’t mean your friend is not dealing with some extremely challenging emotions.
  3. It’s just a phase.
    Mental illnesses are not phases- they are brain disorders. Teenagers especially are told it could be a phase because their bodies and minds are changing. While this is true- nearly 50% of adults with mental illness presented symptoms by age 14. It’s better to seek treatment and NOT need it, than to not seek treatment and need it. If your friend has been feeling this way for MORE THAN two weeks, it is likely NOT a phase.
  4.  Have you tried yoga/hot baths/hiking/tea/self-help books?
    All of those things are great and can help someone temporarily- but they are not cures. Depression especially, can leave someone SO fatigued and worn out that the idea of a hike is like asking them to fly to the moon by flapping their arms. Brain disorders are not cured by a yoga pose or the perfect cup of tea. That said, if your friend finds she feels like worried/depressed when she is doing yoga or hiking or drinking hot tea, encourage her to do those things!
  5. You won’t want to take medication, that’ll make it worse!
    For some people, medication is the best option. If someone tells you they are taking medication, it is NOT your place to assume that it is unneeded or wrongly prescribed. If your brain isn’t producing the right chemicals- store bought is fine too!

And a bonus that I heard TOO often in my own journey:

Therapy is for people who are X. You are not X.

Look, therapy is for everyone. Most of us could probably benefit from talking to an impartial, trained professional. Ultimately, mental illness- brain disorders- don’t discriminate. Anyone can have one, and therapy is a great treatment for them, therefore therapy is for everyone!

Of course, the BEST thing to do is listen without judgement and offer to support the person.
For great tips on HOW to talk to someone:

Related Reading: 

Mental Health 101: An Overview by Lindsey Turnbull

Mental Health 201: Anxiety and Depression by Lindsey Turnbull

Mental Health 202: Eating Disorders by Lindsey Turnbull

Mental Health 301: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Lindsey Turnbull

Mental Health 302: PTSD by Lindsey Turnbull

Leaders, Your Mental Health Matters Too by Julia Schemmer

The Portrayal of Mental Illness in the Media by Tracy Yu

Lindsey’s Story: May is National Mental Health Month by Lindsey Turnbull