Opinion: Faking it

The common practice of telling people who struggle with their mental health that “they’re faking” does more harm than good


Elyas Pasban / Unsplash

When people are suffering from mental health problems, the last thing they need to hear is that their feelings or illness isn’t real.

Alayna Majkrzak, Opinions Editor

A teenager is finally talking to someone they trust. They want to get help. They know that it’s the only way they can possibly learn to coexist with their mental illness. But after finally confiding in someone they trust they are told, “You’re faking it.” The dismissal shatters any hope they had at feeling better. After all, if the person they trusted most thought they were faking, they must be.

Many people who are diagnosed with a mental illness, or are trying to be more upfront with how they feel are confronted by the people they love telling them that they are faking it. Whether they are faking their symptoms, or that “everyone gets nervous” it makes the person who is dealing with their mental health declining feel as though they are not ill enough or that they are not trying hard enough to just “get over it.”

Mental health is becoming a more and more topic of conversation. Though, that wasn’t always the case. For many people it is still a hard conversation to have. Whether it’s reaching out for help or just an open discussion. It is still very common for others to say that someone is faking their mental health for attention. This effectively stops people from wanting to come forward and get a diagnosis. This is due to the fact it makes people worried that their symptoms aren’t bad enough for someone they love to recognize that they are hurting, let alone someone who they don’t know. 

Conversations about mental health are important, but there is still a strong negative stigma that comes with talking about mental illness and mental health. Telling people who are struggling with their mental health that they are faking perpetuates a negative stigma that is already heavily prevalent.

When people come forward and say they are struggling and someone responds by saying they are faking it, it not only perpetuates a prevalent stigma, it also exacerbates that person’s illness. This is due to the fact that a lot of time people who have  mental illnesses are worried themselves that they are faking it, this is called imposter syndrome. Tell someone with mental illness that they are faking will only serve to make their stressors and mental health worse.

The people who tend to say that someone is faking for attention use the argument that people faking mental illness negatively impacts those who actually do have the illness. While this is true, according to the Mayo Clinic it is so hard to determine if someone is faking that it’s even hard to gather data on the topic. Therefore, with so few people faking, it is not fair for those who actually have mental illness to be told they are faking all the time, when in actuality there is a very slim chance that they are faking.

Faking mental illness is overall very uncommon. So, telling people who are open about their mental health, and their struggles closes off all doors that are open to conversation. Telling people that they are faking their mental illness causes more harm than good to everyone who suffers from a mental illness. Taking mental health and mental illness seriously should always come above the minute possibility that someone could be faking.