Tag Archives: Choose your words carefully

It’s all in your head – think positive, will you!


funeral flowersNever tell a depressed person; ‘It’s all in your head.’ Try not to say; ‘Think positive man.’ While optimism is certainly important when training our brains, studies have shown that people who are severely depressed, acutely anxious or mentally ill, they only activate their amygdala (the fear center of our brains) when forcing themselves to think positively.

Please refrain from saying; ‘You need to get out more man, and give something back to the community.’ A comment like this one can only make matters worse. Because, in addition to feeling severely depressed, it makes that person feel guilty and self-absorbed. Giving something back to his community is important but only when a person is sufficiently healthy to do so.

Avoid saying; ‘Do some exercise man!’  This is good advice as exercise has strong antidepressant effects. However, telling someone that they need to do more exercise is like saying; ‘Your butt looks fat in that skirt.’ Hinting at doing some sport is a far better idea.

How can you know what he/she needs so why say something like: ‘What you need is to practise yoga and meditation!’ Yoga and meditation might help those who are experiencing mild depression but, acute anxiety and severe depression are a different story.

It can be most upsetting to hear; ‘Find yourself a new job.’ The job might be stressful which is not good for that person’s emotional health as it pours toxins into the bloodstream. While someone is depressed, he should not take any major decisions – a balanced perspective is far more helpful.

Are you in a happy relationship?’ Depression can be triggered by unhappy relationships. But this is not a question that anyone but a therapist should be dealing with.

‘You have everything you need to help you get better. What’s the problem? This is not a very helpful statement at any time to anyone as it implies that medication are toxins that only dull one’s emotions. 


The word schizophrenia in a political debate?

August 29, 2013. I opened the newspaper and imagine my surprise to see the following heading screaming at me. Schizophrenia in two state solution. I thought that the place to find an article on schizophrenia was in the Health Section of the newspaper.

To everyone out there, I am going to tell you what schizophrenia is and what it is not, once and for all.

Myth   It’s a split personality.
Fact    It’ not a split personality. These people are split from reality.

Myth   Schizophrenia is a rare condition.

Fact    It is not rare. The lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia is widely accepted to occur in around 1 in 4 families.

Myth   People with schizophrenia are dangerous.

Fact    Although the delusional thoughts and hallucinations of people with schizophrenia can lead to violent behavior, most people with the illness are neither violent nor a danger to others.

Myth   People with schizophrenia can’t be helped.

Fact    While long term treatment might be required, the outlook for schizophrenia is not hopeless. When properly treated, many people with this illness are able to enjoy life and function within their families and communities.

And how do I know all this? I did not get it from textbooks, nor from lectures or psychiatrists. I know all this because our beloved son suffered for many years from schizophrenia and I promised him that I would try to lessen the stigma associated with this illness. I vowed to help whoever needs my help because I don’t want a single mother out there to feel as lonely and uninformed as I did when our son was so ill.


How should I speak to him?

This might sound unusual but I have found that most people dare not speak in a natural way to a person with a mental illness. They wonder for example, why he did not communicate with them when they once tried to make contact. But, speaking naturally is difficult for a person with a disorder like schizophrenia and there are people who feel embarrassed or actually fearful of holding a conversation or making contact with them – and they feel it.

I discovered how to do so, the hard way. It helped to speak slowly and clearly to our son and to keep my sentences short because the voices he was hearing in his head, drowned out parts of what I was tellihg him. There were times when he told me that he had trouble concentrating and often only absorbed half of what we were saying. If more than one person spoke to him or stood too close to him, he felt threatened. He preferred us to sit down when interacting with him. He needed a quiet place to chill out when necessary and that occurred often.

We tried to help him build some structure into his life as he did not like the unpredictable but we never succeeded. He spent his days sleeping till noon, walking for miles and miles and miles and wearing out a pair of sport shoes a month. He was unable to follow a schedule so we opted for trying to help him get into a routine, but, that did not work out either.

I learned never to approach my son while angry or upset and  tried to use phrases like:

‘It will make me sad if you …’

‘It will anger me if you …’

‘I would like you to …’

‘I would appreciate it if you ….’