Depression is a serious illness that can happen to anyone, even people who seem to have it all. Knowing what to say is very important. What you say to your friends and loved ones with depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder or any other mental health related issues can make a difference either in a positive way or in a harmful way.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, you may be in shock and may not know what to say. It’s important to choose your words carefully, because what you communicate can either support and encourage them to seek treatment or make them feel even worse about themselves and their diagnosis. This could discourage them from getting the help they need.
You may be in shock by the diagnosis and their behaviour may be very frustrating, but no matter what they do and how upset you are over the whole diagnosis, do your best to avoid saying the following:
- You’re crazy.
- This is all your fault.
- You’re not trying
- Cop on to yourself and shake it off
- You’ll never be in a serious romantic relationship.
- What’s the matter with you?
- I can’t help you.
- You will never get better
The truth is that mental health related disorders are treatable through nutrient therapy and / or medication. For example, with bipolar disorder, they may go between being depressed with very little energy to being hyperactive or in a manic state. This can be very difficult to deal with but this is all part of the illness and they can’t help it. It’s important that you be supportive, without nagging them. It will also help you, if you know what to expect and how to spot when they are not doing so well or if they have stopped taking their nutrients and/or medication.
Not finding someone to love romantically is something that can be a huge concern for people with mental health issues. They feel they will never be able to be a in a healthy stable relationship so be very careful not to reinforce that idea, even in frustration, especially since it’s not true. There are plenty of people with these illnesses that get married and have wonderful fulfilling lives. It just means that they have to do their best to get the condition under control.
So what should you say to be supportive and help them to do their best to manage their condition? Some of the best things to say are as follows,
- This is a medical illness and it is not your fault.
- I am here. We’ll make it through this together.
- You and your life are important to me.
- You’re not alone.
- Tell me how I can help.
- I might not know how you feel, but I’m here to support you.
- Whenever you feel like giving up, tell yourself to hold on for another minute, hour, day, whatever you feel you can do.
- Your illness doesn’t define who you are. You are still you, with hopes and dreams you can attain.
It is very important that they visit their doctor or nutritional therapist on a regular basis. Suggest they attend a support group like Recovery Ireland http://www.recovery-inc-ireland.ie/
Start reading books about the condition and encourage them to read them. This that may help them realise that they are not alone and that lots of people live with mental health issues every day.
Remind them that they are special and that many of the world’s talented and creative people are and have suffered with these conditions. Look at Vincent Van Gough, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammed Ali, Halle Berry, Jim Carey, Johnny Depp, Bob Dylan, Irish book writer Marian Keyes, J.K. Rowling and even Princess Diana.
Erika Doolan – Nutritionist