When someone close to you is struggling or has a mental health issue, it can be hard to know how to support them – despite your best intentions, some comments can do more harm than good. Here are some things that are best left unsaid and the reasons why.
It's important not to:
- make unhelpful or dismissive comments like ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’, ‘forget about it’, ‘pull yourself together’, or ‘I’m sure it will pass’ - these comments can make a person feel worse
- say 'you know how they feel' if you don’t, because this invalidates their experience
- point out that others are worse off - this is dismissive
- blame your friend or loved one for changes in their behaviour, even if you feel tired and frustrated
- avoid the person
- make fun of their mental illness
- pressure them, if they don’t want, to go out or to discuss their issues with you
- think of mental illness as a personal weakness or failing
- define your friend or loved one by their mental illness
- use words that stigmatise, like ‘psycho’ or ‘crazy’
- get frustrated or angry
- feel guilty if you didn’t know your friend or someone you love has a mental health issue - the changes can be gradual, and people often hide their symptoms from close friends and family.
Last reviewed: December 2016