Dealing With a Person Suffering Mental Health Issues
Written by Pliro
Dec 27, 2018 Last updated: Dec 27, 2018
Mental health is a general term that makes reference to psychological and social well-being. There are many factors that can have a negative effect over it, like genetics and previous experiences. This is an important issue for all of humanity, but in the case of Pakistani society, it has become a much more serious and critical problem. The suicide rate is increasing in Pakistan and not much is being done about it. Suicide tends to be a common conclusion in people with depression and other mental conditions. Between the social stigma and poor healthcare, mentally ill Pakistani citizens are left without resources or support to deal with their issues. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders and substance abuse are among the main causes of suicide.
The recent cases of Anam Tanoli (an art student) & Roshaan Farrukh (fashion designer and influencer) were a wakeup call for Pakistan. They were both struggling with mental issues and in the case of Tanoli, even advocating against abuse. Tragically they took their own lives this year.
Pakistani society is now becoming more aware of this mental health problem. Talking about these issues and learning more about them from reliable sources is key if more support is going to be given to those in need. In this article we’ll cover some things not to say to people suffering from mental illness and other recommendations.
“Don’t act crazy
Using words like “crazy”, “insane” or “mad” is not helpful, it will only make the person feel worse and it also trivializes their situation. You may thing you are confronting the situation directly, but this is simply not the way to do it.
If you notice some kind of unusual behavior, the best way to approach it is by explaining why you are concerned and who is affected by it in a non-confrontational way. Also, try to keep the conversation focused on positive things.
Things could be worse
This is normally said after the person expresses some negative emotions, sadness or a pessimistic view of the future. They maybe are not revealing they suffer from depression, but it is a subtle way to ask for support.
Yes, things can always be worse, but that is not the point. The person is looking for some compassion and even some words of encouragement. Telling them that things could be worse will only make them feel like they are being ungrateful about the good aspects of their lives.
It’s just a phase
Unless you actually went through a phase like that, is best not to say this. The person you are talking to may not be able to trust his/her own mind and be in need of professional help and trivializing his/hers condition is not going to help.
Try to be patient and receptive. Try to say something like “I can’t really understand your situation, but I’m here for you if you want to talk about it”.
Therapy is for the weak
This is THE most harmful thing you can say to someone suffering from a mental condition. This is often the reason why some people take a long time before seeking professional health they greatly need. The effects of such shameful comments can even cause people to refuse treatment.
I think you are doing this to punish me
A mental illness isn’t a form of revenge. People with depression or anxiety will often try to isolate themselves from friends and family. This is part of their condition, is not meant to insult you or make you feel bad. They need support from others. The best thing to tell the is “I’m not going to leave or abandon you” or “you are not going to drive me away”.Cheer up
This is often said with good intentions but is never helpful. People struggling with deep depression are already suffering from a kind of experience that makes them unable to just cheer up and be OK immediately. Try to say something like “That must be rough. I’m here to listen”.“
Treat yourself and get over it
This implies that the person should self-medicate and forget about dealing withhis/her feelings. Drugs are not the cure for mental illness; they are only part of the treatment. Someone consuming a lot of drugs without any other kind of treatment like talk therapies are just going to ignore the root of the problem and treat the symptoms, which is not a good strategy.
Think positive thoughts
Positive thinking is part of the process that many therapists use as treatment, but is not something easy or quick. It may take years or some to start re-framing their experiences with a positive attitude.
Pakistan is a country that needs to address its issues with mental problems. Even the academic community avoids this topic to some extent. Very few articles have been written about suicide and mental illness in Pakistan compared to other health topics. How we treat each other is probably the most important issue. There’s still a deep stigma associated to mental illness, which makes a bad situation even worse.
By reading this you are already taking steps to treat those with depression or anxiety with more respect and providing them with support.