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How To Be Sensitive Towards The Struggles Of A Person With Mental Illness (Part 1)

Sensitivity towards mental illnesses and those with it is something we must work towards in our everyday lives, starting with our day-to-day conversations!

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How To Be Sensitive Towards The Struggles Of A Person With Mental Illness (Part 1)

Nandita Kochar

Sensitivity towards mental illnesses and those with it is something we must work towards in our everyday lives, starting with our day-to-day conversations! So here are a few things you must avoid saying to a person with a mental illness (let’s suppose her name is A), along with what you can substitute the above mentioned words with:



  1. DO NOT ACT CRAZY
Effect: This phrase deeply hurts A who is already feeling “less than enough” due to her illness. Using the word “crazy” trivializes the torment A is undergoing and asking someone to not act crazy makes them feel like that the mental illness is their fault since they have a button to press for acting crazy and for not acting crazy, which is not the case at all. 

Substitute: Instead of saying, “Do not act crazy, A!”, point out to the specific behaviour of theirs that annoyed you - “A, could you please clean up your room after you get up? The baby needs to be in a hygienic environment and I would also really appreciate your efforts.” Shouting at someone has rarely gotten the job done. So why don’t we try being a little nice? 

 


  1. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT
Effect: A is suffering from an anxiety issue. So when you tell her to just stop worrying, you are 1. trivializing her pain, 2. telling her that she is consciously choosing to be in this pain and so no one, except her own self, can help her (making her feel more isolated than she already is), and 3. overwhelming her with more pain and guilt. So you’d rather walk away from A than telling her not to worry about something.

Substitute: A does not need your judgement or ready made solution to make things better for her. She wants someone who would just lend an ear by saying, “I know this must be so hard for you. Is there anything you want to share with me?”

 


  1. THIS MAKES ME WANT TO END MY LIFE
Effect: A has experienced severe suicidal tendencies in the past because of her clinical depression. So when you tell her that you want to end your life over a matter like not getting a good review at work or your nanny taking a leave, it trivializes the pain that A went through while she was suicidal. This phrase of wanting to end one’s life must not be tossed around; rather it should be treated with care and sensitivity. 

Substitute: You find something difficult or annoying, so address it directly - “It is so difficult for me to manage the baby without the nanny who took a leave without even telling me. I know this will get better but for now I feel really agitated.”


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