It’s Mental Illness Awareness week so we’ve prepared this very special Nicessist Guide on How To Talk About Mental Illness to make you aware that you may have been talking about mental illness wrong all along.
Before you even begin to start talking about mental illness, you must wipe the following from your vocabulary: “mental,” “schizo,” “crazy,” “loonie,” and so on and so forth. You don’t go around calling cancer patients by colloquialisms you picked up on the playground, do you? Of course you don’t because there aren’t any. But if there were, rest assured that they would be just as hurtful and stigmatizing as “psycho” or “f*cked up individual.” So please, wipe your preferred slang for mentally ill persons from your vocabulary and we can proceed.
Understand that even though 1 in 4 people have some kind of mental illness, the stigma is very real. People still think that it’s shameful, a weakness or a failing to be diagnosed with a mental illness. It’s none of those things, but you still need to sensitive to the fact that they may perceive it that way. Even if sociologically it seems that we are getting better at being open about mental illness, a self-imposed stigma can manifest itself very easily. So just be patient and let the afflicted do the talking while asking thoughtful questions about their condition to drive the conversation.
Don’t you dare talk about a self-diagnosed mental illness you have to someone trying to open about their mental illness. This may come as a surprise but your friend or family member trying to relate to you about their mental illness isn’t about you and your made up mental illness. If you have been diagnosed by a mental health professional, by all means talk about it with whoever is opening up to you about their mental illness. But if you’ve only read a web page about bipolar disorder and thought, “Yeah that sounds like me,” then you don’t get to cite it as it belittles a very real problem.
Meanwhile, if you are someone that has been diagnosed with a mental illness, are feeling the stigma and are unsure of how to talk to people about it, sometimes you just have to blurt it out and see what happens. It’s not unlike asking someone out on a date. The fear of rejection and ridicule is strong at first but it gets less scary the more you do it. Just remember that if your sudden declaration isn’t met with an ounce of empathy, the person you tried to talk to about your mental illness is an asshole, which is an affliction far worse than your diagnosis.
Also remember that you are not defined by your mental illness. The brain is doing a million things at once and just because one thing’s gone wrong, it doesn’t mean that everything’s gone wrong.
Talking about mental illness is hard. Aren’t there any easy alternatives?
No. You have to talk about it. I’m sorry that it makes you uncomfortable but an afternoon of awkward conversation pales in comparison to the news that someone you cared about took their own life because they were too depressed to carry on.
Sorry if this was heavy but it’s a serious issue! Talk about mental health with everyone you know often and hopefully it will spark a mentally healthy world for all to enjoy.
Now here are some bunnies jumping competitively.