What Silence Means for a Person With Mental Illness


Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

People are afraid to talk to me. They don’t know what to say, too afraid that anything spoken will be misconstrued in a negative, sending me to the point that my attempts at suicide won’t just be attempts but a completed act. No one wants that guilt on their hands, so they say nothing to me. Silence… screams at me. Your words don’t fill my head, so I let my own words fill them. They aren’t nice or pleasant words. They’re full of anger, hate, self-loathing, despair and hopelessness. You think you are playing it safe by remaining silent, but your silence speaks volumes.

“I don’t care.”

“Your problems are not mine.”

“Not this shit again.”

“She’s just doing this for attention.”

“Why is she being so dramatic?”

“Why can’t she figure her shit out?”

That’s what your silence is saying to me. Alone, afraid, isolation and desperation is what your silence makes me feel. I know my depression isn’t an easy topic to discuss. The stigma surrounding mental illness has people acting like they just saw a balloon tied to a sewer grate — running for their lives and refusing to believe what they just saw or heard. “Maybe if we ignore it, it will go away.” I hate to break it to you, but ignoring mental illness doesn’t make it go away — it only makes it worse. Saying nothing only makes me feel worse about myself and an illness I never asked for. If you are still at a loss for words, let me help you. Here are a few things that you can say that will not be misconstrued.

“How can I help you?”

“What do you need from me?”

“I’m here for you, but you must tell me how I can help.”

You might be surprised by the responses you get from saying those words. By saying these words, you’re letting someone know they are not alone. They don’t have to face their demons alone — you are there to help them. For those of you who are on the receiving end of those words, pause, step back and consider the words they just said. How can they help? What do you need? Be honest. Maybe all you need is for them to listen, to sit there without passing judgment while you talk about what you are going through. Maybe you need them to help you accomplish a certain task like walking your dog when you can’t get out of bed. Maybe you need them to change a certain behavior, like how they treat you in certain situations. Think about what you need. It’s easier said than done sometimes, I know, but it’s worth the consideration.

If someone is saying those three phrases, they want to help you. They want to see you get better. Let them help you. Let them help. It’s OK to ask for and accept help. You don’t have to fight your depression and anxiety alone. You are not alone. We can’t be silent anymore when it comes to mental illness. Silence means you are alone. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash


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