Sticks and stones may break my bones,Â but words will never hurt me.
We have all heard this expression as kids.Â While this may have seemed like a great tactic to use on the playground in self-defense, words actually CAN and DO hurt.Â And the pain caused from them often lingers long past the healing time of any cut or broken bone.Â Some words can cause pain that may never go away, or create an â€œinvisibleâ€ scar that one carries around their entire life. Â The memory of painful words can lead to a lifetime of anxiety, stress, anger, resentment, and fear, among other feelings.
- Get over it: Itâ€™s so easy to say these words when you are frustrated or â€œfed up.â€ Someone who ruminates or harps on the same things over and over can truly affect your own mental health. Someone who, for example, is severely depressed and continually speaks to you about a depressing situation, can make you feel depressed. Your thoughts may be â€œplease get over it!â€ Itâ€™s perfectly fine to have your thoughts, but be mindful with what you say. Itâ€™s really easy to come across as uncaring, even if you donâ€™t mean to be.
- You are not the only one: This statement can be said in the heat of the moment during an argument or period of frustration. This statement is often used by some people as an attempt to encourage another individual to get motivated to do something. For example, you may feel as if the person suffering is using their condition as an excuse to avoid doing things such as seeking employment, keeping a job long-term, or doing household chores. Iâ€™ve often heard this statement made from some parents to teens who are struggling with depression and tends to avoid doing homework or stays isolated in their bedroom.
- Donâ€™t use this as an excuse: Itâ€™s easy to feel overwhelmed by a personâ€™s condition and begin to think â€œthey are using this as an excuse to avoid their responsibilities.â€ Be careful because this doesnâ€™t have to be the case.
- You arenâ€™t trying: When a client is told that they are not trying, they are likely to not try at all. This is called a â€œself-fulfilling prophecy.â€ A self-fulfilling prophecy is a type of phenomenon that occurs when someone is either told something that they begin to believe as true or when the individual himself begins to tell his own mind something that is eventually believed to be true. For example, a teacher can tell a child â€œyou will never pass this test with your behaviorâ€ and although the child is very intelligent, they can actually begin to believe what the teacher has said and unintentionally underperform. We must be careful how we word things and how we express concerns. Some individuals with mental health conditions are truly trying, trying to the best of their ability. To say â€œyou arenâ€™t tryingâ€ can come across as judgmental, arrogant, and uncaring. Itâ€™s certainly okay, however, to share your concerns with the individual and ask them how much they feel they are actually trying.
- You canâ€™t be like this forever: Sadly, I have heard many parents say to their adolescent child that â€œyou cannot remain this depressed forever because you have to get into college.â€ This placed an insurmountable amount of stress on the individual and even led to worsening depression. Some individuals will recover very quickly with the right amount of medication and therapy while others may suffer for years. Making this statement will likely lead the person to feel inadequate.
- Get out more: Again, you donâ€™t want to come across as judgmental or as uncaring. To tell someone suffering from a mental illness to â€œget out moreâ€ makes it sound as if you think the person is either strange or too isolated. You want to be careful how you share your concerns of the personâ€™s isolation.
- You are lazy: Some individuals with mental health challenges can come across as â€œlazy,â€ especially those who struggle with depression or severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia. But it is important to keep in mind just how ill the person is before you make such statements. Laziness is a â€œcharacter flawâ€ not a symptom of an illness. A person who is appearing to lack motivation is probably going through a mental or emotion struggle of some kind. You donâ€™t want to make them feel bad for struggling with an illness. The most important thing to keep in mind is that if the person could see themselves or help themselves, they probably would.
- Do not assume you know how the individual feels. Even if youâ€™ve gone through the same situations, or have the same disorder, everyone is different and handles these things differently.
- You are just being a brat: Some children and teens who are struggling with behavioral problems or mental health challenges are often unable to control their own emotions and behaviors. It is not very helpful for the child or his or her self-esteem to make statements such as â€œyou are being a brat right nowâ€ or â€œjust grow up, you are so annoying.â€ These statements can, again, be judgmental and confrontational. However, we all know that children push limits and boundaries. We also know that parents get tired and frustrated. But does this make calling the child a name (i.e., â€œbratâ€) helpful? Does it contribute to escalating everyoneâ€™s emotions? Does it cause the child or teen to see themselves negatively? Does it make the child or teen feel unloved or misunderstood? If so, I encourage you to avoid using such terminology.
- You are so sick: I have had the unfortunate experience of hearing some parents or guardians call their child â€œsick.â€ Itâ€™s a word that paints the individual as â€œstrange,â€ â€œweird,â€ or â€œcrazy.â€ It does not help the individual understand themselves and it does not truly convey the frustrated personâ€™s emotions. It only serves the purpose of condemning and hurting the other person.