Mental illness can be a hard thing to talk about and, for those who have never experienced it themselves, it can be even harder to understand. Despite best intentions, much of the “friendly” advice directed at those battling depression, anxiety or any other number of mental disorders does little more than trivialize their pain. Think about it this way: Would you tell a cancer patient in the ICU, “Get up. You’re never going to get better by just lying in bed all day.” Of course not.
It’s equally ludicrous to expect someone in a deep depression to will him or herself out of bed, but yet, that kind of “encouragement” is the norm. While its symptoms may not be as readily apparent, mental illness can be debilitating in its own right. And like physical illness, recovery requires treatment, not just an attitude adjustment. Try applying these “words of wisdom” to other diseases, and we think you’ll see what we mean. It’s time we took all illnesses seriously – physical and mental.
What if we treated cancer patients the way we treat depressed people
"Have you tried, um…maybe not being sick?"Being depressed – much like getting cancer – isn't a choice. To suggest that it is places the burden of recovery on the patient, and you know what that doesn't do? Cure depression or cancer. Warner Brothers
"If you were just more positive, you'd totally get better!"Feeling happy is great, if it's something you can feel. But what if you couldn't, no matter how hard you tried? To someone with cancer or depression, controlling your emotions isn't as easy as it sounds. 20th Century Fox
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It's getting annoying."If you're frustrated by someone's illness, keep it to yourself. No one is trying to put you out; it’s not about you at all. Your friend is going through something; approach it with understanding, not ridicule, just as you would a physical ailment. RKO Radio Pictures
"You're only dying of cancer because you’re letting yourself die of cancer."No one wakes up in the morning and says, “You know what would be great? Cancer.” The same is true for depression: It’s no one’s fault. Alliance Atlantis
"Get up. You're never going to get better by just lying in bed all day."You would never, ever tell someone gasping for breath to "get up." Anxiety and depression can feel just as inescapable. Your friend needs help and treatment to deal with their disorder. If they could get up, don't you think they would?TriStar Pictures
"I don't think it's healthy that you use that air tank every day to feel normal. I think it's changing who you really are."Sometimes, medication is necessary for a patient’s survival – be it antidepressants or oxygen therapy. Without them, people would die. So, yeah, it's actually a lot healthier than not taking something. 20th Century Fox
"Okay, you have AIDS but why not give living a try? Be more like me."Just because you have it all figured out, doesn't mean everyone else should be expected to. Their challenges may look nothing like your challenges. Remember: Mental illness is not a choice; it’s a battle.Paramount Pictures
"Snap out of it, man."Can you imagine someone saying this to Stephen Hawking?! Well, it’s just as absurd to suggest mental illness can be fixed as quickly as flicking on a light switch. Recovery looks different for everyone. For some, it may be a lifelong pursuit. Pressuring them to hurry up and get better won't help. eOne
"When I'm sick, I like to do something nice for myself to make me feel better…like a new haircut."If you have cancer, a blowout isn't going to heal you physically, just as a manicure won't send your anxiety packing. These are nice things, sure, but they’re not a cure. Invite your friend to hang and let them guide your plans. eOne
"It's like you're not even trying."No matter the illness, they're trying to get better. They're trying harder than you could ever know. Give them a break. Paramount Pictures
It’s time we started talking openly about our mental health. Join the conversation on Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 27, and help end the stigma around mental illness. For every text message sent and mobile or long-distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health programs. The same goes for anyone sending a tweet using #BellLetsTalk or sharing the Bell Let’s Talk image on Facebook. But talking about it is just the first step: Visit letstalk.bell.ca for more ways you can effect change and build awareness around mental health.
WATCH: While we’re on the subject, what if depression were a monster?