23 'Harmless' Comments Teachers Said That Hurt Their Students' Mental Health
What people say to us growing up often impacts who we are as adults. This means when we spend eight or nine hours a day, five days a week at school, our teachers can have a huge impact on our growth. Hopefully, this impact is mostly positive — but unfortunetly, that isn’t always the case.
Seemingly “harmless” comments coming from even well-meaning teachers can often have negative consequences, especially when a child or young adult is currently struggling with their mental health or prone to developing mental illness.
That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community to tell us one seemingly “harmless” comment a teacher said to them that actually hurt their mental health. Because what we say does make a difference — and cultivating good mental health and positive conversations around mental illness in schools is so important.
Also, shoutout to the teachers who are supportive of students with mental health issues. We need better mental health education in schools — and we can’t do it without you.
Here is what our community shared with us:
1. “I was late so a teacher told me in a harsh way, ‘Why are you even here?’ It seems harmless, but little did she know I had a bad mental breakdown that night. It made me question every single part of my existence.” — Arya J.
2. “I had a teacher tell me ‘it’s not my problem’ every time I asked for extra help making friends. I was being bullied for being ‘different’ and he did nothing except tell me those exact same words. So every time I went home I threw rages to let out the pent up frustration and hurt I felt for eight hours.” — Ellie M.
3. “‘If you do your homework, you won’t be depressed.’” — Lee C.
4. “’Why are you daydreaming?! Stop daydreaming! Dammit kid, sometimes I just want to shake you!’ Then she actually stood up, grabbed me by the shouldersand shook me. I was disassociating. I had no idea. She scared me so much that I grabbed my bag, ran out of the classroom and went home.” — Amber E.
5. “In physics, my brain scrambled the theories and I needed someone to explain everything [to me] in a way my brain could understand, but my teacher said to me: ‘Oh, leave it! You just can’t understand this kind of thing.’ That woman made me feel stupid all my life.” — Zaraid B.
6. “I have struggled with depression since middle school. One day I got up the nerve to tell the teacher the issues I was dealing with at home and how it was affecting me at school. She told me just not to think about the issues that were going on at home so that I could do my school work. I was crushed that I shared my very personal problems, only to be blown off by someone that might have helped.” — Shelly W.
7. “I really struggled with math in school and when I was talking to my chemistry teacher, he saw that I was in ‘extended algebra’ and said if that’s all I took, I’d never get anywhere in life. It’s been at least 15 years and that remark still haunts me to this day.” — Heather P.
8. “‘Maybe if you slept at home, you wouldn’t have such a difficult time concentrating here.’ Sleep paralysis and severe depression mixed all throughout high school made school awful.” — Lauren C.
9. “When I was in grade nine I was asked a lot why I was late almost every day, mostly in front of the whole class; meanwhile, the truth was that I wasn’t in fact late, just sitting outside in the car begging my grandma to let me stay home because my anxiety was so high. It only made me more anxious.” — Serity M
10. “’Didn’t you take your pills today?’” — Rodney M.
11. “When I was having a panic attack a teacher called me a drama queen.” — Becki I.
12. “‘All you will do is work in a supermarket for the rest of your life!’ I never felt worthy enough anyways, so that just made it worse. Just to note: there are some awesome opportunities in a supermarkets these days and I see nothing at all wrong with working at one!” — Johanna F.
13. “‘Just be happy.’ She meant well and everything, but we all know it’s not that easy” — Alyson S.
14. “’Don’t start therapy, it’ll go on your medical record and make it difficult for you to get a job.’ My professor kept me from starting therapy for almost a year, and now it’s worse than before.” — Anki L.
15. “My health teacher weighed us all as an ‘experiment,’ then posted the results on the wall. For all grades to see. I weighed more than most of the other girls. [It was] one of the things that slowly destroyed me in school.” — Alyce K.
16. “When I was having a rough time coping with my anxiety and panic disorder, a few of my teacher said I should just stress less and in the future just prioritize things better. Sorry my anxiety and panic attacks didn’t match your timetable.” — Helmi N.
17. “‘I don’t care! Get over it, anxiety isn’t real.’ I almost started crying when my professor said this me. She said this while sort of laughing. I was called to be the first person to present my PowerPoint to the class and I asked her if I may go second or third because I have anxiety and wanted to watch someone else present first and that was [her] response. I was dreading this whole assignment and she knew that. I told her since the beginning and she still made me go first, knowing about my anxiety.” — Breeana G.
18. “‘Well, you are overreacting. Don’t get so carried away.’ During a panic attack.” — Brittni R.
19. “My teacher said that if you couldn’t do mental math in under 10 seconds that you were stupid. I have a processing delay because of anxiety that he knew about, but he didn’t care.” — Carolyn B.
20. “‘One day you’ll be normal.’” — Daniel M.
21. “My father had just perished in a motorcycle accident, I was 15 and ready to take my exams. The whole school was aware of the accident. I was off school and had to go in to pick up my books so I could study for the exams. When I walked into the entrance lobby, my math teacher was there and he screamed at me, ‘Morgan, you better have an excuse for being of school. What is it then, a runny nose?’ I ran out of the school sobbing like a baby — I’ve never been so hurt. I failed every exam and had to take them again, and struggle with tests ever since.” — Andrew M.
22. “My social anxiety was bad when I was in junior high school. I was in music class when the teacher gave us a task to perform in front of the class, one by one. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t have any choice. When it was my turn to perform, I couldn’t let my voice out. I was silent for some moment, I felt the stares of my classmates, started to panic and the teacher had become impatient. I had prepared a song, but I couldn’t sing it. My teacher said, ‘Have you prepared something at least? Just sing something.’ It wasn’t her words that hurt me. It was her tone and her look of disgust directed at me, as if I was a waste of time. I know I couldn’t sing, [I’m] still terrible at it. I wasn’t her best student. I wasn’t about to get a good grade anyway. I wasn’t brave. But she should have known that not everybody is born with a singer’s skills. And that singing is not a matter of days to practice. If she didn’t have the energy to teach, she could have just take some days off.” — Alva S.
23. “’You will get no where in life.’ I was a very successful dancer, dance teacher and choreographer. When I retired from dancing I taught myself to sew and now make and sell heirloom dolls.” — Tanya S.
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 reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Getty image via TomWang222