16 things not to say
Yes, these have all been said! Yes, actually to people's faces!
In BOLD: What you said.
Then: What the person heard!
Below this, we have put some things to say instead - which are not that difficult really.
Often, we can avoid people with mental health difficulties because we are not sure what to say. Will we put our foot in it? Will we make it worse? Will be betray our own ignorance and stigma? Will our best intentions be hurtful? However, a simple understanding of what not to say and what to say instead can be helpful.
Things not to say
Just give it to God!
- One quick prayer and it’s all over, sorted, done and dusted!
Have you tried praying?
- Just a thought, maybe you haven’t thought about it yet, you know even though you’ve been a Christian for 15 years?
Pull yourself together
- You need a stiff talking to and someone needs to tell you
We all feel like that sometimes but you have to snap out of it
- You know you’re not suffering anything else that no-one else doesn’t feel now and then so why can’t you just snap out of it like everyone else does?
Have you tried reading your bible?
- I know you’ve been a Christian for 15 years and you use to preach, but maybe you’ve forgotten that when you are so ill and you cannot rationalise, you’re seeing things and hearing things, you can’t make sense of your words and anything or anyone around you, you’re visions blurred and your head feels like it’s going to explode, you can just pick up your bible and claim a scripture! It’s great isn’t it, as simple as ABC
I’m not getting into the boat with you - you’re full of self pity
- No, I’m not even going to listen to anything you say as that would mean that I’m getting in the boat with you and agreeing with what you are saying and that would mean that I’ll be helping you simmer in your self pity and I don’t want to be classed as a negative person like you
Just fight it!
- Just refuse to feel like that in the name of Jesus, refuse it, rebuke it, don’t receive it?
I’d never allow myself to get in that state
- Sorry but what’s happened to you, will never happen to me, I’m fit, healthy and loving life, no way will what’s happened to you happen to me!
You’re looking really well
- You look like there’s nothing wrong with you, in fact I think you’re making it all up, cause to me, you look like everyone else
It’s your own fault
- I was reading Job the other day, what sin is in your life that you haven’t confessed and dealt with yet?
There’s no such thing as depression, you’re just feeling sorry for yourself
- What is all this poppycock about depression and illness? you need to get a grip and stop pretending you are ill
You’re a hypochondriac
- Honestly, there’s people out there who are really ill, I think you enjoy it
Shouting at someone
- I need to disciple you, discipline you and put you right, now STOP IT
Why can’t the doctors do anything?
- Why can’t the doctors sort YOU out? I mean they’ve always sorted me out and everyone I know so why can’t they sort you out? Tell me? It’s very frustrating and I can’t work it out
You should just stop taking all those tablets and just trust in God
- Now I have a physical condition so if I stop taking my tablets, I would die, if you stop taking your medication nothing will happen apart from you will be trusting God more and you won’t have any side effects, so simple!
It’s a choice – you can change if you want to
- Yeah… of course I choose to hate my self and wish I was dead… Thank you for pointing out it’s just a choice that I need to make
Things to say instead
This is OK to say in BOLD and This is WHY it's OK in the explainatin afterwards. It's not as hard as it sounds. Just be kind and empower them
If you want to talk, I’m here to listen
- I care about what’s happening to you and need to listen to you as a friend to show you that. Then I can understand and help you. I realise this is going to take longer with someone who is mentally ill.
I’m praying for you, do you want me to pray for you now?
- I don’t have any magic answers and I’m not trying to give you one but what I can do is pray for you. I know God answers prayer.
I have some practical wisdom I can share with you.
- Because I’ve spent time with you and listened to you, I can see you need rest, space, food, spiritual advice etc and can help you.
I have no idea what it must feel like because I’ve never suffered from mental illness but I can understand it better now
- I can’t contemplate what it must feel like to be mentally ill and I can now have sympathy to anyone with mental illness because I understand it now.
Could I help you spiritually in any way, perhaps share some scriptures that you may be able to draw strength from?
- I can't imagine what its like to not be able to draw from my bible because I’ve lost the ability to think clearly and be in control of my mind. If I can help by writing some scriptures out or reading from the bible for you, or get some bible tapes for you, I will.
Shall we go out together somewhere? Can I take you out somewhere?
- Special times with friends help and if I can help take you out for a while it may help you escape from the same surroundings and focus on something else for a while. It must be awful when you are to not be able to go out at all because you are ill and you’ve lost your work world and other social outlets.
I can see your not feeling great at the moment, do you want me to go and come back tomorrow or another day?
- I can appreciate that if you’re having a really bad day, I should come back another time and I’ll be able to help better
Do you need help getting your medication or a lift to the specialists?
- This is a really practical thing that you need and half an hour of my time would be a real answer to prayer to you
Talk to them about something positive in their life, or an improvement that you’ve noticed
- Sometimes when you are so in the middle of something and experiencing it every day you can’t see the small improvements that are happening or recognise an achievement or progress
Find out any likes, hobbies, what makes them laugh and work towards helping them achieve one of these
- Laughter’s good medicine, we all need purpose in our lives and to feel we’re achieving something.
Help them work through a panic attack, and irrational thoughts.
- Help them to breathe by going through simple exercises, pray for them, talk through calmly their thoughts and help them rationalise them.) All the physical effects it can feel like you are dying and is very scary. This can be very draining yourself especially if emotionally attached so take time to recuperate yourself after.
Don’t give up on them; it can take along time and a lot of hard work to help someone recover. They need friends and loved ones to stick by them.
- Medication alone won’t do it; it’s all the social help and one to one work and prayer that will help
Alan and Amanda Stephenson, 08/07/2017