Amanda Kelley • guest writer

From depression to schizophrenia, more and more people are being diagnosed with a mental illness. However, some stigmas on mental illnesses exist, despite the booming amount of men and women who have to deal with them on a daily basis. Some people are unsure of how to talk about them or address them when they find out friends or family have them. Some people can unknowingly be very offensive or hurtful towards those with mental illnesses, even if there was no ill will intended. Sometimes this can even cause people suffering from a mental illness to refuse seeking help. This can be very detrimental to their health.

So how do you go about discussing a mental illness? First off, a mental illness does not mean a person is crazy or insane. It’s extremely impolite to use those terms when referring to a serious mental illness. It can make someone feel like no one wants to be around them because of their mental illness. A person can take medication for their heart, so there should be no judgment or issues with a person taking medication for their brains, as it is simply another function of the body that could go wrong.

Secondly, if a person informs you of their mental illness or their struggle thereof, it is impolite to share it with others. A person will tell the people they want to know, and it is their business to go around discussing. Way back in high school, I needed to be placed in a mental health clinic so I did not hurt myself. When I returned to school, I only told a few of my closest friends. However, it seemingly worked its way around my social school. People made me feel ostracized and isolated, on top of being paranoid that I could not trust the closest people to me in one of the worst times of my life. Other people will feel this way, as well, if you are constantly discussing their mental health issues.

Thirdly, if a friend comes to you for help about hurting themself, it’s okay to talk to an authority figure. This is only if you feel like your friend is seriously going to harm themself and you feel out of depth or overwhelmed towards helping them. Some people just want to be around others when they’re feeling lonely or like they’re in a dangerous situation. However, if your friend continues threatening suicide, or attempts, you should immediately contact 911 or your local mental health clinic. They may become angry or upset about this, but it is better for them to be angry for a while and get the help they need.

In any case, mental illnesses are not exactly visible. You can’t know who is listening or who will be hurt by your comments. So just use caution and address all illnesses with some level of respect. 

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