TOP 7: How NOT to treat an individual who has or is battling a mental health condition …

  1. Don’t suppose that an individual who has had a mental health issue is violent. Although mass media often headline stories about the mentally ill being connected to violent incidents, most people with mental illness aren’t The American Psychological Association reports that only 7.5% of crimes are directly related to symptoms of mental illness. Subsequently, violent acts can often be connected to other factors such as poverty, substance abuse unemployment, and homelessness.
  2. Don’t look on that individual / or treat them differently. It goes without saying that some people will be unsure about how to approach an individual upon the news that she/he has or is currently battling a mental health issue. Don’t look at them or treat them differently. They have a mental health issue – yes, but they can most certainly sense if you treat them differently. This can include suddenly keeping them at arms length when you were close in the past. Also, something as simple as changing your tone of voice with them can be glaringly obvious for the mental health sufferer. The fact that they are struggling with a mental health condition does not mean that they’ve lost all sense of social awareness and/or emotional self. Be your natural self with them.
  3. Fight the temptation to tell them to ‘jazz up’ their life, go on a holiday or book a spa weekend. I have had all three of these, believe it or not. I believe such advice often comes from o good place, but what it ultimately does is minimise the struggle that he or she is facing.
  4. “It’s all about keeping positive. Positive Mental Attitude. Having goals and concentrating on those” This is a difficult one. Keeping positive is naturally good as is having goals, but 9 times out of 10 the individual in question isn’t even near to being able to keep positive or to having goals. If it was as easy as that, I guess depression wouldn’t exist. What people do by using this sentence is to magnify the individual’s lack of ability to be positive. I favour a gentler approach – perhaps a chat over tea and cake about what’s been happening in their life – and try from there to highlight the better moments and plan ahead.
  5. NEVER tell individuals who struggle with mental health issues that they are doing it for attention. Shockingly, I have even heard this sentence used in clinical environments. These struggles are very real. When such sentences are used, it isn’t uncommon for an individual’s situations to downward spiral drastically. Mental health can be a matter of life and death. Remember this before sharing the above sentence with anyone. All mental health issues should be treated seriously.
  1. “Have you taken your meds?” I find this so rude/insulting. Individuals who suffer with MH issues can also have bad days – that are nothing at all to do with mental health. MH medications aren’t happy pills either. You don’t take them and in the next 20 minutes feel you’re all fluffed up in your happy cloud/place. Lots of the time, they only action subtle chemical changes in our bodies. This is a real intrusive question, that I feel at best, should be avoided.
  2. “She’s suicidal!” The fact that an individual has tried to commit suicide once does not mean that he/she is permanently suicidal. I’ve seen friends loose solid friendships because of this, trust issues can’t be sorted and links are ultimately severed. You should never assume that anyone is suicidal unless you have good reason for doing so – and in such a situation, professional help should be sought immediately for the individual in question.


1 great tip to end things – of what to do: Speak less and listen more! < It’s always a winner!


  1. Aww Malan such sound advice. I love reading your blogs and take on board what you say. I had a friend who tried to commit suicide and I struggled with exactly what you said, with how to talk/approach her without cusing offence or belittling her. xxxx


  2. Or refer to a person with severe clinical depression as ‘The jobless one who sits on his arse all day doing f’all’


  3. Really helpful points here. it’s sad reading that so many people are treated badly by those around them. From my own experience I would also add to the list:
    8. Don’t disown the person you used to be glad to call a friend. On top of suffering from a mental illness the last thing you need is to lose your friends because of it. it makes recovery a whole lot harder and slower.


  4. Sawl gwaith y mae rhaid i mi ddebyn llawer o weiddi arnaf a sylwadau anghywir gan fy ngwiaig…..ond y peth yw – a dyma’r gwir fel dwi’n gweld, mae rhaid iddi hi fyw gyda fi, fy holl broblemau iechyd meddwl….ac mae’n ei gwneud yn sal. Ddoe, roeddwn yn eistedd ar wal yng nghanol Centenary Square (y safle adeiladu fel y mae ar hyn o byd) gyda hi’n cwyno fy mod i’n embaras iddi hi….ac yn gweiddi eto. Crio ydy’r peth gorau dwi’n gwneud yn y byd! Dwi’n meddwl bod hi’n doeth ddarllen y post uchod iddi hi rhywbyrd. Byth yn gweiddi ar bobol mewn peryg oherwrdd iechyd meddwl.


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