When Moneer Elmasseek started a Twitter discussion on mental health, the response was massive. His two thought provoking questions received hundreds of responses.
If you have a Mental Health issue. Quote this with
1, what it is.
2, what you would like people to stop saying/doing to you.”
I was floored by some of the things people say and do to friends, relatives, and loved ones. Responses fell into a number of categories.
- Just get over it.
- Stop being irrational.
- Just eat.
- It’s all in your head.
- Stop overthinking.
- Depression is a choice.
- “I don’t understand.” (and not trying to.)
- “Why?” (Sometimes the person suffering does not know why.)
- “Oh, I understand.” (when they really don’t.)
- “Calm down.” or “Try to relax.” (There isn’t an on/off switch.)
- “If you meditate, you won’t have to take meds.” ~ theNath90
- “It sounds like you’re not really in touch with the Lord.” ~ @myeung_ (There were several versions of this one.)
- “Have you tried <insert solutions>.” (Thanks, they probably did.)
- Think positive. Change your outlook.
- There’s plenty of people with worse problems than you.
- You’ll be OK …@doragatoryWORD points out, “that’s not up to you to determine.”
- “Push thru, it’s not that serious, be positive. If you wanna be better, you can be.” @_celgrl
- Just be happy. Smile more.
Also, please stop:
- “Trying to force me to do things or go places that trigger my anxiety” ~ @melaninfresh
- “Confusing depression with laziness” ~ @ StoopKid_Syd (And several other folks!)
- “Making me feel guilty for it.” ~ @LanteLucian
- Excluding mental health from disability coverage. It can be completely debilitating for some.
Besides bringing awareness to some of the ways people react to mental illness in non-supportive ways, the discussion also had another effect. People who thought they were alone in what they experienced found others that experienced similar things. They were not alone. There were others that truly had, at least somewhat of an understanding, of what they were going through.
I asked Moneer if he would gather some information on what kind of responses would be more supportive for folks. As, I spent days contemplating how to distill such an overwhelming amount of information, a number of inspirations came to me by way of either Sadhguru videos, Access Consciousness, and other internal martial arts/self-development studies. I suddenly realized, like someone hit me over the head, that people’s immediate response to ANYTHING outside their realm of experience tends to be judgement, conflict, defensiveness, or a strong desire to brush over it or make it go away. If something does not fit into the square peg hole one feels comfortable with, it can create an internal discomfort that is difficult to stabilize. This makes labeling someone and sticking them in a category, defining their brokenness, easier to accept. “I’m OK, you’re not OK.” Eric Berne and Thomas Harris could probably add a lot more to this discussion.
What if nobody is ever broken? I’m not saying, nobody has a problem, or is suffering. I mean, nobody is ever less than a whole person because of it. What if everyone is still a whole person, no matter what they have going on that doesn’t fit into someone else’s defined version of, “society as a whole,” or, “normal”?
As I read through tweets with people suffering from the same things (depression and anxiety topped the list), I wondered how much the “broken” label, the judgements signifying that they were less than whole, added to the suffering. There were MANY people suffering from similar things. Maybe, for some people, that is normal (suckie, but normal) and having not experienced it does not make one person normal and another person broken, it just means they are composed differently. While creating a term like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to help communicate a number of defined traits can be helpful in a discussion, it fails miserably when it is used as a label to define a person and fit them into the PTSD peg hole. People are more than PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia … people are whole people, not just a series of descriptions as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As human beings, we are all greater than some manual’s definitions.
So, what else can be done to help friends and loved ones when they are suffering? A few Twitterversians had suggestions:
- Ditch the judgement.
- Assure me that you care and that you love me.
- “Tell me my feelings are valid rather than wrong.” ~ @sunliightttt
- “Just plain acknowledgment would be nice.” ~@laboushaar
- Don’t expect an apology. Chances are you are expecting someone to be someone they are not, or, judging them for what you do not understand. That does not make them wrong, or, their behavior something they need to be sorry about. They already feel horrible enough, so don’t kick them while they’re down.
- “Hey, I know you can’t help what’s happening and I’m so glad that you’re trying so hard” ~ @GumpySarabi
- Show you care. Listen.
- “If I make you happy, tell me! Let me know, because I step away socially so I don’t become a burden to anyone.” ~ @sunliightttt
What can you be or do differently, to embrace differences in others, rather than judging or lessening?
Thank you for the inspiring discussion Moneer Elmasseek and to all the folks that took the time to participate in the discussion. You can also follow Moneer on twitter at his Actor/Writer account @MoneerElmasseek.