One of my favourite pages of Matt Haig's Reasons to Stay Alive contains a list of all of the things that people say to sufferers of mental illness which they would never say to someone suffering from a physical illness. I think about it all the time and although Haig approaches the point with humour in his book, there's a really painful truth behind it. Mental illness is everywhere. It affects more young people today than it ever has. Yet, because we can't point to our ailments. Because I can't show my doctor a scar, a cut or a bruise, it's so much harder to be taken seriously. Mental illness does cause bruises. You just can't see them.

For this reason, I've decided to follow in Haig's footsteps, and compile a list of just some of the crazy, unbelievable and wild things that people say to a sufferer of a mental illness that they would never dream of saying to someone with a physical illness.

- Have you tried walking it off? Maybe some fresh air would help.

- Just do something else to take your mind off of it.

- Oh don't worry about it. Sleep it off. You'll feel better tomorrow.

- It's like you don't even try to feel better. You obviously just want to be sad.

- You're just doing this for attention.

- Maybe just try... breathing deeply?

- You can't go to a doctor for that.

- I know how you feel.We all feel sad sometimes!

- It's just a phase. You'll grow out of it.

- It's just your age.

- You're too young to be this sad!

- You're too old to be this anxious!

- I think you're making it sound worse than it is.

-  I think you're remembering it worse than it is.

- Give it a week, you'll forget all about it!

- Oh don't be so silly. Just get on with it.

- You can't have time off work for sadness. That's not what sick days are for.

- There are people worse off than you.

- If you just push through it, it'll be easier next time.

- You're being childish.

- How do you expect anyone to like you if you're so quiet all the time?

- Why don't you go out and get some fresh air today, you might feel better.

- You're not the only one who has problems.

- I'm affected by this too.

- You're bringing me down.

If you take any one of the above comments and apply it to a physical disease or ailment, it sounds completely absurd. Saying these things makes mental illness sound like it's a choice. Something that a person can just get over if they try hard enough. These comments put illnesses like depression down to just a generalised sadness, and until we get past this generalisation, sufferers aren't going to be taken seriously.

Mental illness is a real, physical thing. Even if you can't see it. It affects one of the most important organs in the body and takes hold of a person completely. It can't be walked off. It can't be slept off. It can't be forgotten. The bruises are permanently there, and believe us when we say that they sting.


  1. I went to my GP when I was struggling at the end of my degree..I was working part-time, commuting two hours on the train to uni, finishing assignments and trying to build a portfolio of work. I was overwhelmed by everything and couldn't sleep at night, so I tried sleeping pills for a bit. When I went back I was still trying to balance everything and he suggested yoga - something I didn't have time for and there was no way I could make myself relax. I ended up on anti-depressants for three years.

    This book has been in my TBR pile for ages. I need to give it a go

    1. That's horrible to hear. Mindfulness techniques like Yoga often do help, but they're not a cure.

      I 100% recommend it! It's my favourite book on mental illness which I've yet read.

  2. PREACH IT. I find that mental illness is one of those things that people just can't imagine what it's like until they go through it themselves, so the only answer is that they have to trust us that it's as debilitating as we say. The more we show just how stupid these responses are the better, great post! (This is also on my to be read pile...I'll get to it! xxx

    Jesska - Opal Soul

  3. "Don't worry about it" and "We all feel like that sometimes" are the ones I've heard the most! I completely agree with you that one of the reasons mental illnesses are not taken as seriously as they should be, is because they can't be seen... When in actuality the battle with mental illness is excruciating as essentially you're using your brain - an incredibly powerful organ that processes thoughts and feelings, holds memories, deals with motor control, vision and language, and of course works with the heart to keep us alive - to challenge itself to a fight. So it has got a lot going on! I've actually scheduled a post for next week about reading and Haig's wonderful book, and it was really great to read how you've been inspired by it too :-)