At some point in everyone’s life, they feel like they have hit their ultimate low. For some, this pit of endless disappointment and desperation seems impossible to come back from. People don’t need an excuse to be upset about something, and the last thing a person wants to hear when they are upset is “don’t be sad,” as if it is a choice, or “there are people who have it worse than you,” as if they don’t know. Chances are, telling a person these things with the intention to cheer them up is only going to make them feel worse.
“People have their own struggles and handle them in a different way than anyone else,” says junior Abby Woerner. “They also may not understand what someone is going through, so being ‘positive’ can really be a full-time job. I wish people would understand that people with mental illness or that struggle with grief really do try every day, but it is a constant uphill battle. [However,] we give all that we can and if you make us feel defeated, it will bring us down more. We just want someone to listen to us and try to understand what we go through every day.”
Telling a person that they shouldn’t be sad because someone has it worse than they do is not only invalidating, but it is also inconsiderate. “As a person with mental illness, I already hear that from myself enough,” junior Greyson Siminak explains. “Being told that it could be worse or I’m being dramatic is the worst thing a person could do. On top of feeling bad, it makes me feel like I shouldn’t be feeling the things I am, so I end up feeling even worse.”
Even if the intentions are purely helpful, it may not come off in that manner. Instead of trying to give a solution, it is important to just listen. “Most of the time, people in recovery for grief or mental illness just need someone to listen. You don’t need to fix them, you don’t need to solve their problems, you just need to make them feel loved and supported,” Siminak adds. “Trying to solve a person’s issues may just make them feel like they can’t adequately vent to you and like you just want the problems to go away and be done with. This may not be the case, but you need to remember that people who are mentally fragile for whatever reason may take things to heart worse than they usually would. Just be careful, be sensitive, and be a shoulder to lean on.”
People who struggle with their mental health tend to have more bad days than good, so being there to support them emotionally is very important. It is also important to remember to focus on oneself before trying to help others, because a person who is also emotionally damaged should not feel responsible for anyone’s issues but their own first. “I’ve struggled with mental health issues for years and I lacked support when it first started. I really had to be my only cheering team member for myself because no one else was there to cheer me on,” Woerner stated. “I learned strength, courage and overall know that it’s okay to need help and it’s okay to not be okay! I have overall become a better version of myself, someone I’m happy with and that no one can change … there are days I will come back and I will overcome that fear and rise above what I thought was impossible. It’s all a daily learning experience for me.”
Mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are much more common among students in MCHS than one may think, so being kind and accepting of all people can go a very long way. People who may be irritable, or angry, or constantly negative may have a lot more and deeper things going on beneath the surface, so everyone should be considerate of others at all times. There does not necessarily need to be a “reason” for someone to be sad — that is not how these disorders work. They cause these feelings suddenly and without reason, and they can elevate bad feelings when there actually is a reason. This is also a dark time for people who are grieving, whether it be about canceled activities or about the loss of loved ones, and it is crucial that these people are not told to just “get over it” or to “look on the bright side.”