Living With Someone With a Mental Illness

  1. Mental Health
  2. How can I help?
  3. How do I do this?
  4. Where do I go from here?
  5. 10 things not to say to someone with a mental illness | Aruma
  6. 1. “It’s all in your head.”
  7. 2. “Come on, things could be worse!”
  8. 3. “Snap it!”
  9. 4. “But you have a great life, you always seem so happy!”
  10. 5. “Have you tried chamomile tea?”
  11. 6. “Everyone is a little down/moody/OCD sometimes – it’s normal.”
  12. 7. “This too shall pass.”
  13. 8. “It’s all part of God’s plan.”
  14. 9. “Just try to be positive!”
  15. 10. “Suicide is so selfish.”
  16. What should I say?
  17. Helping someone get support
  18. How to support someone with a mental health problem
  19. How do I know if someone has a mental health problem?
  20. Talking about mental health
  21. 2. Let them share as much or as little as they want to
  22. 3. Don't try to diagnose or second guess their feelings
  23. 4. Keep questions open ended
  24. 5. Talk about wellbeing
  25. 6. Listen carefully to what they tell you
  26. 7. Offer them help in seeking professional support and provide information on ways to do this
  27. 8. Know your limits
  28. How do I respond in a crisis?
  29. How do I respond if someone is suicidal?
  30. Useful organisations and resources
  31. Specialist mental health services
  32. Samaritans
  33. Mind Infoline
  34. Rethink Advice and Information Service
  35. Anxiety
  36. Citizens Advice
  37. Step Change
  38. MindEd
  39. A Guide for Spouses of Partners with Serious Mental Illness — BC Schizophrenia Society
  40. Criteria for Involuntary Admission
  41. What you should NOT do
  42. Managing Self-Destructive Behaviour
  43. What to do if you suspect someone is suicidal
  44. 5 Things Never to Say to Someone with a Mental Illness

Mental Health

Living With Someone With a Mental Illness

It can be scary when someone you love is sick. It can be especially scary if they’re diagnosed with a mental illness. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and it’s confusing when someone you know well is not acting themselves.

You know how you would take care of them if they had a cold or flu, but what do you do for a mental illness? any other health problem, someone with a mental illness needs extra love and support.

You may not be able to see the illness, but it doesn’t mean that you’re powerless to help.

How can I help?

Research confirms that support from family and friends is a key part of helping someone who is going through a mental illness. This support provides a network of practical and emotional help.

These networks can be made up of parents, children, siblings, spouses or partners, extended families, close friends and others who care about us neighbours, coworkers, coaches and teachers.

Some people have larger networks than others, but most of us have at least a few people who are there for us when we need them.

There are a number of major ways that family and friends can help in someone’s journey of recovery from a mental illness:

Knowing when something is wrong—or right: Getting help early is an important part of treating mental illness. Family and friends are often the first ones to notice that something is wrong.

See “How do I know when to help?” on the next page for signs to watch for.

Finding a treatment that works is often a process of trial and error, so family members may also be the first to see signs of improvement.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Learn more about the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses. Also learn more about how treatments work so that you know what side effects you may see, when to look for improvements and which ones to look for first. A recent review found that when the family is educated about the illness, the rates of relapse in their loved ones were reduced by half in the first year.

Seeking help: Families and friends can be important advocates to help loved ones get through those hard, early stages of having a mental illness. They can help their loved one find out what treatment is best for them.

They can also be key in letting professionals know what’s going on, filling in parts of the picture that the person who’s ill may not be well enough to describe on their own.

Where do I go from here?

If you need advice on how to get your loved one the help they need, there are a number of resources available to you.

Other helpful resources are:

BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit for info sheets and personal stories on supporting loved ones. You’ll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems.

Alzheimer Society of BC
Visit or call 1-800-936-6033 (toll-free in BC) for information and community resources for individuals and families with dementia.

Visit or call 604-525-7566 for information, tools, and community resources on anxiety.

British Columbia Schizophrenia Society


10 things not to say to someone with a mental illness | Aruma

Living With Someone With a Mental Illness

If you need to talk to someone about mental illness or a crisis in your life, please consider calling Lifeline on 13 11 14. For advice and support contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

When someone close to you has a mental illness, it’s hard to know what to say – and no matter how good your intentions, some suggestions or comments can do more harm than good. Here are ten things we think are best left unsaid, and the reasons why.

1. “It’s all in your head.”

OK, so mental illnesses are technically “in your head”, meaning they’re caused by a set of complex factors such as brain chemistry. But they are by no means imaginary which is why this comment is so hurtful.

Not only does this attitude trivialise the emotional symptoms of a mental illness, it ignores the many physical symptoms that mental illnesses can cause, such as tiredness, a churning gut, muscle pains, disturbed sleep, and weight loss or gain.

2. “Come on, things could be worse!”

“So-and-so lost their job, was diagnosed with cancer, and accidentally ran over their cat. So don’t be sad because things could be worse.”

For people who have never experienced a mental illness, it can be hard to understand that depression and other mental illnesses often have no trigger at all.

When you compare other people’s problems, you run the risk of belittling their experiences. And the idea that, “there are people who have it so much harder”, can worsen feelings of guilt.

3. “Snap it!”

This is one of the most commonly used and most dismissive comments of all. Telling someone to “cheer up” or “let it go” sends a damaging message: that mental illness is something to be ignored, endured, or both.

When it comes to mental illness, you can’t just flick a switch and ‘snap it’.

4. “But you have a great life, you always seem so happy!”

Although someone may seem to have it all, depression can affect anyone, even the rich and famous – just look at Nicki Minaj, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and so many others who have opened up about their mental illness.

The reality is that many people hide their mental illness under a mask of happiness. Some may not feel comfortable to reveal how they truly feel; others might do it as a coping mechanism.

For whatever reason, don’t tell someone they seem “fine” just because they’re laughing along at your jokes.

5. “Have you tried chamomile tea?”

This is the kind of well-meaning comment that many of us have made at some point when you’re trying to think of a way to help. But the fact is, herbal tea (or other magic wand solutions) just don’t cut it when you’re experiencing a mental illness.

A nice idea and we understand people have good intentions, but no amount of tea is really going to help.

6. “Everyone is a little down/moody/OCD sometimes – it’s normal.”

Often people will say “Everyone gets depressed, I was depressed for a few days last year.”

It’s true that everyone can feel a little down sometimes, or have mood swings, or get fixated on something, but, this is often not the same as having a mental illness.

If someone is constantly told that the way they’re feeling is “normal”, they’re much less ly to seek the treatment they need.

7. “This too shall pass.”

While everyone is different, you shouldn’t really tell someone that their mental illness will pass on its own; or that they “just need time”.

While it does take time, it often also takes professional medical treatment, and the love and care of a non-judgmental support network.

8. “It’s all part of God’s plan.”

While of course everyone has their own beliefs, comments this are not very helpful.

Remember, the person may not share your spiritual beliefs – and even if they do, they may already be wrestling with different emotions such as feeling ashamed or worried that God is somehow punishing or testing them for something they have done.

Also, for someone who is struggling with their faith or spirituality, this might actually push them further away.

And no, mental illness is not the work of ‘the devil’ or ‘being possessed’– yes, we have heard that one before too.

9. “Just try to be positive!”

Suggesting that someone can treat their mental illness with a simple attitude adjustment is unrealistic – it’s a little telling someone with diabetes to think happy thoughts instead of giving them insulin.

Mental illnesses can be serious conditions, and often require treatment to match. If only it was as simple as turning that frown upside down!

10. “Suicide is so selfish.”

Suicide is a desperate act by someone who is in intense pain and wants their pain to stop. This is not a selfish response, it is a human response – a decision no one makes unless they feel there is truly no other option.

For someone who has a mental illness and especially those having thoughts about suicide, it is so important that they are supported to get help.

What should I say?

We admit, it’s not always easy to know what to say in all situations, and that’s ok. Every person has their own preferences, however, here are a few things you may say to someone who has a mental illness – feel free to put your own personal spin on these as well.

“Thank you for telling me.”

“Talk to me. I’m listening.”

“Would you to talk about what you’re going through? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?”

“Have you spoken to your doctor or therapist about how you are feeling?”

“I am proud of you for getting the support you need.”

“What can I do to help?”

“This must be hard for you, but you’re going to get through it.”

“I am there for you, you’re not alone in this.”

“You are important to me.”

“I love you.”

A lot of the time, simply listening can be helpful. It’s also important to talk to the person in the same way you have always done – they’re the same person, and letting them know your relationship is stable can be very important.

Helping someone get support

Mental illness can be treated. It is so important make sure your loved one has access to professional help if they need it.

Let the person know that they’re not alone, and there are a huge range of medical professionals, support groups and other resources out there.

If you (or someone you know) are concerned about any symptoms of mental illness, talk to a GP or medical professional.

If you need to talk to someone about mental illness or a crisis in your life, please consider calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

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How to support someone with a mental health problem

Living With Someone With a Mental Illness

We all go through tough times and people help us through them. Other times we have been worried about other people’s mental health. Whether they are a friend, family member or colleague, there are many ways to support somebody you care about.

How do I know if someone has a mental health problem?

Sometimes it will seem obvious when someone is going through a hard time, but there is no simple way of knowing if they have a mental health problem. Sometimes you don’t need to know. It’s more important to respond sensitively to someone who seems troubled than to find out whether or not they have a diagnosis.

Although certain symptoms are common with specific mental health problems, no two people behave in exactly the same way when they are unwell. If you know the person well, you may notice changes in their behaviour or mood.

Our A-Z of mental health provides information on a range of mental health problems.

Talking about mental health

If you are worried about someone it can be difficult to know what to do. When you are aware there is an issue, it is important not to wait. Waiting and hoping they will come to you for help might lose valuable time in getting them support.

Talking to someone is often the first step to take when you know they are going through a hard time. This way you can find out what is troubling them and what you can do to help.

It is important to provide an open and non-judgemental space with no distractions.

2. Let them share as much or as little as they want to

Let them lead the discussion at their own pace. Don’t put pressure on them to tell you anything they aren’t ready to talk about. Talking can take a lot of trust and courage. You might be the first person they have been able to talk to about this.

3. Don't try to diagnose or second guess their feelings

You probably aren’t a medical expert and, while you may be happy to talk and offer support, you aren’t a trained counsellor. Try not to make assumptions about what is wrong or jump in too quickly with your own diagnosis or solutions.

4. Keep questions open ended

Say «Why don’t you tell me how you are feeling?» rather than «I can see you are feeling very low». Try to keep your language neutral. Give the person time to answer and try not to grill them with too many questions.

5. Talk about wellbeing

Talk about ways of de-stressing or practicing self-care and ask if they find anything helpful. Exercising, having a healthy diet and getting a good nights sleep can help protect mental health and sustain wellbeing. 

6. Listen carefully to what they tell you

Repeat what they have said back to them to ensure you have understood it. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying, but by showing you understand how they feel, you are letting them know you respect their feelings.

7. Offer them help in seeking professional support and provide information on ways to do this

You might want to offer to go the GP with them, or help them talk to a friend or family member. Try not to take control and allow them to make decisions.

8. Know your limits

Ask for help or signpost if the problem is serious. If you believe they are in immediate danger or they have injuries that need medical attention, you need to take action to make sure they are safe. More details on dealing in a crisis can be found below.

If it is a family member or close friend you are concerned about, they might not want to talk to you.

Try not to take this personally: talking to someone you love can be difficult as they might be worried they are hurting you. It is important to keep being open and honest and telling them that you care.

It may also be helpful to give them information of organisations or people they can reach out to. A list can be found below.

How do I respond in a crisis?

People with mental health problems sometimes experience a crisis, such as feeling suicidal, or experiencing their own or a different reality. 

You may feel a sense of crisis too, but it’s important to stay calm yourself.

There are some general strategies that you can use to help:

  • Listen without making judgements and concentrate on their needs in that moment.
  • Ask them what would help them.
  • Reassure and signpost to practical information or resources.
  • Avoid confrontation.
  • Ask if there is someone they would you to contact.
  • Encourage them to seek appropriate professional help.
  • If they have hurt themselves, make sure they get the first aid they need.

Seeing, hearing or believing things that no-one else does can be the symptom of a mental health problem. It can be frightening and upsetting. Gently remind the person who you are and why you are there. Don’t reinforce or dismiss their experiences, but acknowledge how the symptoms are making them feel.

How do I respond if someone is suicidal?

If someone tells you they are feeling suicidal or can’t go on, it is very important to encourage them to get help. You or they should contact a GP or NHS 111. They can also contact the Samaritans straight away by calling 116 123 (UK) for free at any time. They could also get help from their friends, family, or mental health services.

You can ask how they are feeling and let them know that you are available to listen. Talking can be a great help to someone who is feeling suicidal, but it may be distressing for you. It is important for you to talk to someone about your own feelings and the Samaritans can help you as well.

If they are planning to take their own life please encourage them to call 999 (UK) or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress. 

Useful organisations and resources

The first person to approach is your family doctor. He or she should be able to give advice about treatment, and may refer you to another local professional. See our guide on How to talk to your GP about your mental health.

Specialist mental health services

There are a number of specialist services that provide various treatments, including counselling and other talking treatments.

Often these different services are coordinated by a community mental health team (CMHT), which is usually based either at a hospital or a local community mental health centre.

Some teams provide 24-hour services so that you can contact them in a crisis. You should be able to contact your local CMHT through your local social services or social work team.


The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day, in full confidence. Call 116 123 or email [email protected].

Mind Infoline

Mind provides information on a range of mental health topics to support people in their own area from 9.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday. Call 0300 123 3393 or email [email protected].

Rethink Advice and Information Service

Rethink provide specific solution-based guidance: 0300 5000 927 E-mail: [email protected].


Anxiety UK runs a helpline staffed by volunteers with personal experience of anxiety from 9:30-5:30, Monday to Friday. Call 08444 775 774.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice for a range of problems as well as providing information on your rights and responsibilities.

Step Change

StepChange provides help and information for people dealing with a range of debt problems. Freephone (including from mobiles) 0800 138 1111 or visit the website on


MindEd is a free educational resource on children and young people’s mental health for all adults.


A Guide for Spouses of Partners with Serious Mental Illness — BC Schizophrenia Society

Living With Someone With a Mental Illness

When you and your spouse are BOTH calm, explain to them what kinds of behaviours you will not tolerate, and the specific consequences that you and other family members have decided and agreed upon for specific violent or disruptive behaviours.


“Next time you threaten to harm any of us, the police will be called.”

Get to know and recognize signs that your spouse is becoming violent or disruptive. Your own uneasiness or fear is usually an indicator.

Tell your spouse that their behaviour is scaring or upsetting you. This feedback can defuse the situation, but proceed with the next suggestion if it does not. Saying you are scared does not mean you act scared.

If you and other family members have made a plan for dealing with a particular behaviour, now is the time to carry out the consequences. If you have not already warned your spouse of the consequences when they were calm, use your judgment and past experience to decide whether to warn them or to just go ahead with the plan without saying anything.

Give your spouse plenty of space, both physical and emotional. Never corner a person who is agitated. Verbal threats or hostile remarks constitute emotional cornering and should be avoided.

Give yourself an easy exit and leave the scene immediately if they are scaring you or becoming violent.

It is sometimes helpful to call other people from outside your home. Describe what has happened and ask two or more people to pay a visit to your spouse.

Just bringing in other people, particularly the police, can quickly defuse the situation. It also sends a clear message that there are consequences for losing control.

If you send the police, make sure they understand that your spouse has a mental illness.

If you, or someone else, has witnessed your spouse committing a violent or dangerous act and your spouse refuses treatment, the police may be able to intervene. Under the B.C.

Mental Health Act, police can intervene in certain circumstances to take a person to be evaluated by a physician for involuntary admission.

The evaluating physician will decide whether or not your spouse should be involuntarily admitted to the hospital for treatment specific criteria.

Criteria for Involuntary Admission

According to the B.C. Mental Health Act, there are four criteria that must be met before a person will be involuntarily admitted to hospital.

  • The person is suffering from a mental disorder that seriously impairs the person’s ability to react appropriately to his or her environment or to associate with others.
  • The person requires psychiatric assessment in or through a designated facility (such as a hospital).
  • The person requires care, supervision and control in or through a designated facility to prevent the person’s substantial mental or physical deterioration or for the person’s protection or the protection of others.
  • The person is not suitable as a voluntary patient.

– Guide to the Mental Health Act, Ministry of Health

If the physician decides your spouse meets these criteria, they will complete a medical certificate that allows your spouse to be admitted for a 48-hour period. Two medical certificates by different physicians are required for hospitali­zation beyond 48 hours.

What you should NOT do

Do not try to ignore violent or disruptive behaviour. Ignoring the behaviour may cause your spouse to believe that this kind of behaviour is acceptable and repeatable.

Do not give your spouse what they want if they are trying to get it through bullying you. Giving in only reinforces this behaviour and makes it ly that they will use it again. ONLY give in if it is the only way a dangerous situation.

Do not try to lecture or reason with your spouse when they are agitated or losing control.

Never be alone with someone you fear.


Do not drive them to the hospital by yourself.

Managing Self-Destructive Behaviour

Mental illness is a major risk factor for suicide, therefore it is important to be aware of warning signs that your spouse may be thinking about harming themselves.

Remember your limitations:

Nobody has the power to make a person attempt or commit suicide. Also, nobody has the power to stop a person if they really want to end their life.

Recognizing warning signs:

The following are warning signs that a person may be at risk of suicide.

  • Exhibits feelings of worthlessness
  • Expresses hopelessness about the future
  • Perceives life as unbearable
  • Expresses a sense of powerlessness to change their situation
  • Experiences hallucinations or delusions that encourage them to harm themselves or convince them that they are immune to harm
  • Neglects their physical appearance and personal welfare
  • Withdraws from other people and activities
  • Displays a sudden lack of motivation in their usual role at work, school or home
  • Exhibits sudden changes in mood from severe depression to inexplicable happiness
  • Feels indestructible in a manic or delusional state
  • Talks about suicide or makes suicide threats i.e. “Everyone would be better off without me”
  • Has made previous suicide attempts or engages in other self-destructive behaviours i.e. cutting
  • Has access to lethal means i.e. weapons or pills
  • Has a specific plan for how they would commit suicide – the more specific the plan, the higher the risk
  • Makes “goodbye” gestures such as making a will or giving away favourite possessions

What to do if you suspect someone is suicidal

If you suspect your spouse may be suicidal, try to talk to them about it.

Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” You will not be putting ideas in their head by asking this question. Most people who are thinking about suicide are willing to talk about it.

Ask: “Do you have a plan?” and, “Have you taken any steps to carry it out?”

Show interest and understanding:

  • Statements : “You should appreciate how lucky you are!” or “But you have everything to live for!” can make your spouse feel guiltier, worthless or misunderstood.
  • Remain available to talk. Try not to turn off the discussion.
  • Try to remain calm.

Stay with them or ask someone else to stay with them and contact a mental health professional, suicide prevention worker or police.

Get professional help, even if they have sworn you to secrecy or claimed they will get help.

Petition for an involuntary commitment if:

  • they have made self-destructive acts.
  • you have any doubt that they will seek help for themselves.

Even if you suspect the suicidal threat is manipulative, getting a professional involved is important for three reasons:

  • It will show your spouse that there are serious consequences for this way of trying to get what they want.
  • Even non-serious attempts can end in death or serious injury by mistake.
  • If anything unfortunate does happen, you will not be burdened with the guilt that you didn’t seek professional help.

Do your best to remove anything they could use to harm themselves from your home.


Pills, razor blades, knives, guns.


5 Things Never to Say to Someone with a Mental Illness

Living With Someone With a Mental Illness

Mental illness is more prevalent than you might think. The odds are that you may have even experienced a b a mental health condition.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), at least one in five adults in the United States experience mental illness in any given year, while one in 25 experience a serious mental illness that substantially limits their life.

1 Despite this prevalence, those suffering emotional torments are often self-conscious and fearful that people might view them as ‘not normal.’ That self-consciousness can lead to feeling too stigmatized to seek help.

That reluctance is amplified when someone, whether intentionally or by accident, uses a phrase that perpetuates a view of mental illness as shameful or tiresome rather than something that a large portion of humanity experiences.

Here is what NEVER to say when talking to someone suffering from mental illness.


DITTO: Don’t be insane! or You are seriously unhinged

The phrase might be tossed off thoughtlessly, not intended to cause pain. But the result is acid on a scar to someone who already feels ‘less than’ due to an illness that is rarely viewed with the respect or understanding given to a person with a physical ailment. Uttering “stop acting crazy” trivializes the very real torment faced by a person with mental illness.

Eliminating ableist words such as “crazy” or “insane” is a small but vital way to reduce the stigmatizing impact of such language.


Rather than scoffing, “Terri, you are so crazy!” be specific about the behavior you find objectionable: “Terri, when you don’t clean up after your kids or your dog, the place gets messy and smelly.

”  Additionally, be specific when describing positive experiences such as a concert or movie you enjoyed.

For example, try using language , “Black Panther was stereotype-busting” or “Justin Bieber’s show was electrifying.”

Article continues below


DITTO: Calm down! or Don’t sweat the small stuff

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADA) cites that 40 million adults have a diagnosable anxiety disorder, so it is helpful to know the best ways to help someone who is suffering rather than to act they’re making a mountain a molehill.2

You wouldn’t dream of saying to someone with his or her leg in a cast, “You don’t need a cast. Put your foot down!”  So why do so many find it acceptable to say a person with an anxiety disorder, “Just don’t worry about it?”

The put-down results in trivialization of what someone feels. This type of language can make the person feel as if he or she is making a choice about these difficult emotions. People with anxiety disorders know they worry a lot.

Kady Morrison wrote in a vox.

com article, “It is better to walk away from an anxious person than it is to tell them they need to calm down—we know we need to calm down, and hearing you say it only adds guilt and failure to the pile of emotions that was already overwhelming us.” 3


The key is not to seem judgmental. Use a supportive phrase such as “This must be so hard for you,” or “I’m here if you want to talk about how you feel.”

Just showing you have empathy and want to lend an ear and not lecture or taunt is the calming influence that can help the person versus alienate or cause further anxiety. And when your loved one is feeling calmer, perhaps he or she will be open to discussing options for seeking help.


DITTO: I wish I were dead or This makes me want to commit suicide

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.4 Thus someone with suicidal ideation certainly does not need to hear someone who has experienced a minor trauma, such as getting a bad work review, go to the emotional dark side with a proclamation , “That makes me want to kill myself.”

Again, this poor phrasing is not necessarily due to insensitivity, but an unawareness of the importance of word choice.


While you should steer away from exaggerating the intensity of your reaction to a setback, that doesn’t mean you have to treat someone who is severely depressed with kid gloves.

A loved one or peer dealing with depression ly doesn’t want to feel as if you are walking on eggshells around them; they would ly prefer you admit you’re in pain over a difficult situation in your life—even if it doesn’t seem “difficult” in relation to what they experiencing or in the greater scheme of “difficult” situations. It can actually help a severely depressed person to get his or her head and feel of use to another person.

Again, use specifics, rather than overly dramatic proclamations.  Say something along the lines of “Marcie telling me she’s not ready to get married has really put me in a bad place. I know I’ll get over it, but right now I’m really sad and feeling unloved.”


DITTO: I just don’t see the point of therapy or Can’t people just solve things on their own?

A woman I’ll call Kate recently came for a consultation and said, “I waited so long to come to therapy because a close friend, who I know has my best interests at heart, kept telling me I should be able to handle my problems on my own. She insisted I’m stronger than I think and therapy is for the weak.”  Kate added, “I am so glad I found the courage to finally stop listening to her.”

Therapy is for people who are weak is one of the worst things you can say to anyone in a fragile state.

Such a statement is a horrific reinforcement of the negative stigma against admitting to having a mental health illness, much less seeking help.  The truth is that it takes strength to admit one needs help.

If you insist on saying this harmful phrase to someone clearly suffering, you need to look at your own issues and prejudices.


A few choices: Say nothing. Bite your tongue or if pressed on the issue, say something , “I’m not sure how I would handle what you’re going through but if therapy seems a viable option that can help you, I’m all for it.”


DITTO: Tomorrow is another day or Cheer up

This sentiment is often issued in a heartfelt manner intended to be helpful. However, to someone with a major depressive or anxiety disorder to whom every moment of every day is an excruciating ordeal, it feels a slap in the face. Furthermore, it makes the person saying it appear to have no desire to really relate to nor understand what mental illness feels .


Again, rather than offer unwanted and unhelpful advice, validate the person’s feelings, no matter how elevated or exaggerated they seem: “That must really be rough to feel you messed up so badly. I’m here to listen.”

It can be really difficult to speak to someone dealing with a mental illness—not because of what they are experiencing, but because it’s hard to find the right words and it’s easy to feel you are not saying or doing enough to help.

The above statements are rarely made malice, but rather because it can be easy to fall back on clichés when you are struggling to find the right words.

Try to use the substitute language listed and work hard to be present and let your peers, coworkers, and loved ones know that you are listening to them.



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