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Mental Illness and the Potential Dangers of Motivational Messages


I see them everywhere — pieces of advice for living a “full, happy life.” “Choose to be happy.” “Be positive.” “Change your destiny.” “Just relax.” “Be thankful for what you have.” “You are the only one that can make you happy.” They are in greeting cards, newspapers, scrawled in graffiti on the streets, in brand advertisements, on the internet (I’m looking at you, Facebook)…

Every single day I open my Facebook news feed I come across one of these, and, honestly, I think they can be dangerous, but people seem to be oblivious to that. See, many people can’t just choose happiness. When you want to be happy but can’t, you may see these messages and try to follow the advice, and you may fail. You may fail because you really cannot “just relax” because you decided to or “be happy” because a message told you to. You cannot just change your attitude. It is so, so much more complicated than that.

When you’re in the middle of a mental health crisis, no matter the illness you have, you may see these messages and wonder, “Am I not trying hard enough?” “Am I so weak that I can’t change my attitude?” “Why can’t I just be different?” But what you should know is this: Don’t feel bad for not being able to “just change.” Stop blaming yourself for not being able to. The only choice you do have in getting to be happier is getting help.

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Thinkstock photo by Gajus