3 Terms That Hurt When You Mean to Help

By Nancy Virden (c)2021

Mental health challenges come in many forms. We call one of them, “mental illness.” Another term we use is “emotional instability.” There are personality disorders and neurological development disorders. Then, of course, are the more commonly recognized types of difficulty such as short-term mild depression or burn-out.

Take the time to learn a few details about a specific disorder and you may be overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of variances and symptoms. For example, there are at least ten types of depression. While we have the one word for it, depression has a wide variety of causes, symptoms, remission-maintenance factors, and treatments. This is one reason it is foolish to try and persuade anyone with a mental health challenge to fix themselves with a one-size-fits-all approach.

In light of how personal and complex these problems may be, let us talk about terminology. Here are three words and phrases to reconsider when you mean to help or encourage someone in their struggle.

Need. What do you need seems a natural question when we do not know how to help. However, the person in struggle may also have no idea what can help. It is easier to answer, “What would you like?” If by terminology I suggest a person has a need, it implies there is a solution – getting that ambiguous need met. This may not be true and it places much burden on the one in pain to figure it all out. (Who would, by the way, have done so already if it were possible). Even while in deep trouble one knows if they are thirsty or hungry and could probably choose between two options. Try, what would you like, for me to sit with you quietly or to talk?

Think positive. Just think positive thoughts carries connotations that will most likely not fit the situation. Positive thinking, in its wider more common usage, is the concept of setting a goal and believing it can be reached. Generally, positive thinking is used for financial and career goals. The person with a mental health concern is not strategizing long-term when it is tough to face basic functions. Think positive can also mean to actively deny reality. Truth is, life is hard and love hurts sometimes. Accepting tough facts and learning how to manage and thrive is stronger than positive thinking. Try, I believe this too will pass and I am here with you.

Take a pill. Get over yourself- take a pill is unhelpful at best, and dismissive. Medications do not work at will, and if they do (such as tranquilizers) no one needs to be encouraged to use them more than as prescribed. Medications are not happy or chill pills. When used consistently as prescribed they merely put our physical brains back into some semblance of how they are meant to function, and from that point we have more options concerning healthy thought processes and behaviors. Instead of take a pill, how about a sincere how can I help you feel more comfortable? If you are overstressed by the situation, go for a walk.


Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 15:23

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!

How the Difference Maker Lifts You Above Depressive Thoughts (c)2020

Stay at Home and Thrive! (c)2020

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. NOTE: Nancy is not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speaks only from personal experience and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.


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