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Please Don't Say You're 'Dealing' With Me — Say This Instead

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This is a message for anyone who has interacted with someone with a mental illness — so every single one of you. Here are some things I wish everyone knew about the way we talk about mental illnesses and those who have them. You may know someone without knowing their story, so regardless of who you’re talking to, please keep these things in mind.

The language we use when talking about mental illness can sometimes be harmful without us realizing it. For example, it upsets me is when people say they have to deal with me. The problem with “deal with” is that it makes being helped sound like some kind of burden. To me, it implies an almost instant sense of negativity. It absolutely irks me.

Feeling like a burden is a big problem for me personally, as well as many people I know who have a mental illness. It is always accompanied by a huge amount of guilt. When the words “deal with” are used, it can suggest we are “burdening” you, which is something we might have already feared.

So what words can we use instead?

One saying I like to use is “working with.” As soon as you say it, it sounds like you are now a team, united for a similar outcome. Both parties are willing to put work in and work toward a goal. The person who needs you is no longer standing alone — he or she has an ally. Having someone by your side can make everything seem easier since you are no longer doing it alone.

For example, you could say, “I am working with Sara to help with her depression” as opposed to “I have been dealing with Sara and her depression.”

Replacing the word “dealing” with the word “helping” is also good. Everyone needs help sometimes, and using a word we use every day, in all kinds of situations, can help remove some of the stigma of mental illness.

All of this is just a reminder to please choose your words wisely and keep in mind you never really know who might be in pain. If you are unsure of what may or may not be acceptable ways to approach or talk about mental health, asking someone what they feel comfortable with is always a good plan. Everyone interprets things differently and may or may not be hurt by some of the things I am.

Just keep in mind that the power of positivity can be immense, and the kinder words you use to speak with others, the kinder they may speak to themselves.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: July 7, 2016
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