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How to Respond Appropriately to Insensitive Comments Regarding Your Mental Health

Mental illness is often misunderstood and debilitating. People will tell you things like, "Don't worry! You will get over it." Or, "Perhaps you should focus on something you love to do." These words might be said with good intentions, but ultimately they turn out to be hurtful or insensitive. People who struggle with diseases such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder regularly express their frustration that some individuals in their life "simply don't understand it."

In all honesty, people really don't understand it at all. They don't know how to comfort and respond appropriately to the person who is going through mental illness. Instead of listening and giving constructive responses, they jump directly to conclusions. People need to understand that they should respond instead of reacting. While not everyone understands the symptoms of mental illness and how to support the sufferer, there are specific strategies we can use to manage and sympathize with others who are suffering from mental illness.

The first step is to give it a name.

People usually don't realize the effect of their words on others. They just say it with good intentions, but the listener may find it hurtful or insensitive. Some comments that people make about your mental health are subtle. If you want to deal with all these comments, categorize and name them to clear up your confusion about what they actually want to say.

Generally speaking, there are often three primary categories into which certain kinds of comments fall: Judgement, Argument, and Belittling (JAB). These three categories are discussed more below (JAB). JABS are something that people often refer to as "microaggressions." Now whenever you experience negative emotions like pain and confusion, it might be because of JAB. The following are some instances of each, all of which people with mental illness experience first-hand.

Judgment: These comments make you feel like you are wrong, weak, or responsible for what you are going through.

  • "Maybe you should try a little harder."

  • "You need to work on being more optimistic."

Belittling: Sometimes people downplay the severity of our suffering by comparing it with that of another individual, sending the message that we should feel guilty for "complaining."

  • Things could be worse than this. You should feel blessed that there is a roof over your head.

  • You think your problem is worse, but what about those who are going through this and this…?" (Fill in the blank.)

The second step is to explain to them what you need.

After you identify the insensitive remark made to you by others, try to explain to them why the comment was so insensitive. After all, some remarks are made intentionally. Try to educate your social circle on how to see you and what you need from them. Tell them you need their support, empathy, and esteem (you want them to respect or value you). We can make them clear about what we need from them by communicating with and educating them.

You can learn and use this skill. The following are some instances of what we may ask for and how they could respond:

Support: Never feel that you are alone, and you should know that others also experience the same feeling of loneliness at times. Even if they don't feel the same way, you must be reassured that they will always be there for you.

  • "Sometimes, I also experience this kind of feeling."

  • "Why are you so worried when I am here with you?"

Compassion: We feel understood when the people around us actively listen and give us constructive responses.

  • "It seems like you are feeling agitated and restless. Am I right?"

  • "I think you feel that people make only negative remarks about you, and that makes you feel bad about yourself."

Appreciation: Even when you are in a foul mood, you still want to be reminded that others appreciate you, value your worth, and recognize the qualities that make you unique.

  • "I love you for what you are, and I will always be there for you whenever you need me."

  • "I must appreciate the hard work you have done for your recovery, and I'm impressed by how you've managed to maintain your sense of humor throughout the process."

The third step is to give what you did not receive.

Even after discussing all these things with a serial "jabber" (or even sending them this article), they still don't understand it. If this is the case, you need to accept that you can't change everyone's behavior. Depending on the kind of connection or bond you share with them, you may get counseling with them, maintain distance from them, or completely remove yourself from their company.

When someone behaves rudely to you, go be kind to others. So, the next time you find yourself in this situation, reach out to one of your peers and let them know. This will divert your mind, which will significantly help if you have been thinking a lot about your recent JAB. It's like paying it forward when you give something to someone that you did not receive. This way, you won't see yourself as a victim; you will see yourself as a giver.


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