Mental illness is an invisible illness.
It’s easy to notice when someone is physically ill, you can see it, therefore you believe it. Mental Illness is different.
Common symptoms of Mental illness range from; extreme mood changes – high to low, low to high, feeling sad or down, heightened anxiety, withdrawal from any social activity or situation.
If you’re a sufferer of mental illness, there’s no doubt you’ve dealt with some ignorant, unsympathetic people.
Here are 9 things you’ve mostly likely have heard from them.
1. ‘Cheer up’
If only it was this easy. It’s hard to ‘paint on a brave face’ and get on with it. It’s not as easy as just smiling. We’d love to instantly be happy again, but unfortunately that’s not the way mental illness works.
2. ‘It will get better’
It’s sometimes hard to see that light of the end of the tunnel, I can guarantee I’ve had this said to me 1000 times over.
For me it doesn’t make any difference, I might have periods of feeling great but it certainly isn’t going to disappear.
3. ‘You don’t look ill’
Whilst we may not ‘look ill’ – we are. Mental illness isn’t obvious. While it can be easy to hide, you have no idea what’s going on inside our minds.
4. ‘They’re off on one again’
I’ve experienced this a few times, while it’s easy to say someone’s ‘going off on one’, it should be noted that they’re struggling to cope. Random bursts of anger or unhappiness and excessive mood changes are not just somebody ‘going off on one’.
5. ‘There are people in worse situations’
Yes there is, but this doesn’t make it any easier. Sufferers of mental illness aren’t claiming to be in a better or worse situation than others suffering with a physical illness. In fact, most sufferers won’t talk about themselves at all, out of fear they are going to be further judged or stigmatized.
6. ‘Stop being lazy ‘
Some days all you want to do is shut out the world, spend time where you feel safe and stay in bed. When people don’t understand mental illness they tend to take your lack of motivation for being lazy.
7. ‘It’s all in your head’
Well yes – it’s a mental illness! But it doesn’t mean it’s not there or that it’s any less debilitating than a physical illness. Anyone struggling with a mental illness will tell you how hard it is some days just to cope with your own negative thoughts.
8. ‘Have you taken your medication, surely it makes you feel better?’
Ah this one. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me this. Whilst medication is one method of treatment for mental illness, that doesn’t mean they’re a cure – it isn’t a quick fix, there isn’t a cure or recovery period for mental health sufferers.
9. ‘Have you tried eating better?’
I can enjoy a day of fresh fruit and veg and a takeaway the next. Guess what? Neither of them had any affect on my mental illness. Sorry to disappoint you.
We know you don’t mean any harm, and that with most of these comments, it’s a lack of understanding.
But as repeated many times in this article, mental illness is an illness that is very real, and very much affects your lifestyle. So, treat it like the illness it is. Treat a sufferer the same why you would treat someone with a debilitating physical illness – with support, understanding and no judgement.
That way, more sufferers will feel more confident in speaking out and asking for help when they need it most.
Words by James Conlon