If you have a friend or loved one who is suffering from a psychological health condition like TBI, it can be hard at times to express your compassion through general words. It’s important to be sensitive when speaking to them about their struggles, and it is crucial for them to have your support during this challenging time.
While there is no doubt that you mean well, just a few simple words that don’t mean much to you can actually be painful for them to hear.
“You don’t look sick.”
Not showing physical symptoms of being ill doesn’t mean that illness is not there. While there can sometimes be slight, but noticeable changes in appearance, many of the changes are mental, such as feeling emotionally numb, experiencing panic attacks, and having suicidal thoughts.
“You’re lucky! It could’ve been worse.”
There is nothing that is lucky about living with a psychological health condition. Every day can come with a new set of challenges.
“Are you sure it’s not just all in your head?”
As previously stated, it can be hard for someone to understand what a person suffering from TBI is going through because those symptoms and changes aren’t physical. This battle is internal and is a very real illness. Saying this can just make them feel as if their psychological health conditions aren’t real and could prevent them from seeking the professional help they need. It can also lead to giving them unnecessary stress and anxiety. Read more about the stigma of mental illness.
“Maybe you should just get out more.”
Certain social situations can be overwhelming for those who suffer from psychological health conditions. Loud noises and crowds can often be a stress-inducing trigger, so avoiding them can be better for their health.
“Just look on the bright side!”
While positivity and optimism play a key role in getting better, “looking on the bright side” won’t treat psychological health conditions alone.
“What if you just stop thinking about it?”
When someone experiences a traumatic event, it’s hard to erase that impactful moment from their life. Oftentimes, that moment will replay itself in that person’s head over and over again. Experiencing these flashbacks can lead to destructive behavior to try and block out the memory.
“Have you tried _________?”
There are many ways to help treat psychological health conditions, but leave it to the experts to find what works best for the patient. (Unless you’re asking them if they’ve tried to seek professional treatment. Then by all means, please encourage that!)
The greatest things that you can say to someone who is fighting TBI are genuine words of support. Let them know you’re there for them and that you believe that what they’re going through is a real illness. They’ll appreciate that more than anything else.