Mental illness affects nearly 1 in 5 people. If you roommate happens to be one of those people, don’t freak, they are still human! Here are just a few reminders of things to avoid saying and doing if your roommate has a mental illness:
1. “You’re just looking for attention.”
This is actually the opposite of what is happening! Most people who are dealing with a mental illness are trying to avoid causing a scene because drawing attention to themselves opens up a can of worms they probably aren’t ready to deal with.
2. “It can’t be that bad.”
No matter the situation, you would never want someone saying this to you, so why say it to someone else. We all know that whats “bad” in our minds may not be same in someone else’s. It’s impossible to fully know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes so ease up on the judgement.
3. Never talk down to them.
This is pretty self explanatory; if you were going through a tough time, the last thing you would want is for someone to talk down to you and act like you are incapable of making your own decisions.
4. “You should really go to counseling.”
Most likely your roommate has been or even is currently going to counseling. This is a sensitive topic for most people because everyone has their own views on counseling. For some, counseling helps a lot, while for others counseling feel more like an interrogation. Leave this topic alone unless they bring it up to you.
5. “Have you ever tried going on medication?”
Similar to counseling, this is definitely a topic you want to avoid bring up unless the person first brings it up to you. Your roommate may already be on a medication they don’t want you to know about. If you roommate was hesitant to go on medication in the first place, by you bringing this up they may feel as though it is not working and may question why they are on it.
6. “You just need to have a positive outlook on life.”
Having a positive outlook on life does not change the fact that your roommate has a mental illness, they are probably trying really hard to make it though each day already. While being an optimist is great, it is not the cure-all to mental illness.
7. Never speak poorly about them to your friends and/or floormates.
While this applies to more than just roommates who have a mental illness, it is still important to note. Your roommate probably has a hard enough time having normal social interactions, and the last thing they need is to have people who don’t know anything about their situation judging them. If your friends ask or bring up something negative about your roommate, just tell them it isn’t you place to be talking about your roommate’s situation. Whether you are close friends with them or not, their mental health is their business and you should respect their privacy to only talk about it to people they trust.
8. “Why are you always laying in bed?”
“If you just got out of bed things would be easier”… WRONG! Sometimes the best way someone can deal with all the thoughts going through their head is to sleep.
9. You should try going out more, it might be good for you.”
Honestly if someone has a mental illness, encouraging them to go out might seem like a great idea if you are talking about joining a club or sport, but if you are referring to going out to parties… steer clear of this one! It’s inevitable that going to parties leads to drinking, and drinking when your down or going through a hard time can land the person on a slippery downward slope.
10. “I understand what you are going through.”
You may think you understand what the person is going through, but they usually have a lot more going on than they lead on. Mental illness can change your whole perspective on life and trying to explain it to someone is like trying to explain calculus to a baby. Just be there to listen.
11. Don’t go behind their back to an RA or Hall Director to get unnecessary help.
Going back to number 7, your roommate’s mental health is their business and while you might want to help, sometimes involving outside people can cause more stress for your roommate. In general, most people who have a mental illness are aware of their situation and have a handle on it, if they become quickly withdrawn and you start noticing
12. “I have a ________ who has depression.”
Whether it be a friend or relative you know that is faced with depression or any other type of mental illness, they aren’t your roommate. Everyone deals with mental illness in their own way, and while you just be trying to relate, comparing someone else’s struggles to theirs can put you in a sticky situation.
13. “It’s all in your head.”
While there are hundreds of different mental illnesses out there, I can guarantee you that the feelings the person is experience is not all in their head.
14. “Just relax, everything will be okay in the end.”
Having someone tell you that everything will be okay is not only discouraging, but it also minimizes the person’s problem. Giving false hope to someone struggling to pull themselves together can lead to feelings of agony.
15. “I need you to be better.”
No matter your relationship with your roommate, you never want to see them hurting. However, telling your roommate that you need them to be better puts unnecessary pressure on them. This may cause them to feel like they are holding you back or that their mental illness is a burden to you. Instead, let your actions speak louder than your words and show them that you aren’t going anywhere despite their quirks.
Your roommate is still your roommate no matter their mental health. If they reach out to you, know that they are coming to you because they trust you. Most of the time they probably just want someone to listen, they don’t need someone who is going to fix them.