Well-Intentioned Insults: The Patronisation Of People With Mental Health Conditions
Mental Health

Well-Intentioned Insults: The Patronisation Of People With Mental Health Conditions

When you live with a mental health condition, you will become accustomed to certain types of behaviour from others. We’ll call this behaviour “well-intentioned insults” – a term that is inherently contradictory, but, well, that’s the issue.

Well-Intentioned Insults: The Patronisation Of People With Mental Health Conditions

What the term applies to are comments that the speaker believes to be advice. Examples include:

  • “Have you tried sleeping more? I’ve heard that can really be beneficial for depression.”
  • “When I’m feeling anxious I go for a walk, it calms me right down!”
  • “Why don’t you try a diet designed specifically to ease mental health concerns?”
  • “Have you tried focusing on the positives in life and expressing gratitude more? It can make a real difference to your mental well-being.”
  • And many, many more besides.

The people who say these things mean well. They are not trying to patronise, demean, or insult people with mental health conditions; they almost certainly believe they are being genuinely helpful.

However, there is a problem: those with mental health conditions…

  1. Have already heard these suggestions, and…
  2. … they will have tried implementing these suggestions too. People with mental health conditions will usually have gone to great lengths to try and find solutions; they will do their research and follow the advice of medical professionals in an effort to find relief.

As a result, as a person with a mental health condition, it’s not a reach to find such blase suggestions downright insulting – even if you know the person saying them means well.

Well-Intentioned Insults: The Patronisation Of People With Mental Health Conditions

Why do people say these things?

There’s a number of reasons people choose to issue this kind of advice:

  • They think they are genuinely helping and want to improve your life.
  • They are confusing mental health with mental well-being. Mental health issues are medical conditions which only a select number of people experience; mental well-being impacts everyone.
  • They don’t know what else to say and reach for cliched advice in an effort to show they care.

All of these reasons are entirely understandable, of course. The issue is the disconnect.

How can you cope with well-intentioned insults?

If you have a mental health condition, it’s tempting to roll your eyes at these statements, add them to r/wowimcured, and move on with your life. However, there are a few ways you can handle the issue and maintain a relationship with the person who issued the advice:

  • Acknowledge that what they have said is beneficial, if it actually is. After all, there are benefits to tempting yourself to sleep more by choosing to see Mattress-guides.net for info on improving your sleeping arrangements; you will benefit from exercising more; looking for tips on eating for mental health at Healthline.com is genuinely beneficial, and positive thinking can work. It’s nice to acknowledge the truth of a person’s advice, especially if you suspect they are saying it for lack of anything else to say.
  • Explain that you have tried their suggestion before, but it’s helpful to have the reminder.
  • Move the conversation on to another topic as soon as you feel able to.

In some ways, it is unjust that people with mental health conditions have to alter their behaviour to deal with this issue. However, if you believe the “advice” is genuinely well-intentioned, then preserving your relationship with the person who offered it is usually paramount.

Well-Intentioned Insults: The Patronisation Of People With Mental Health Conditions

What if you suspect the advice isn’t well-intentioned, and you’re being patronised?

Move the conversation on, and make a mental note not to discuss your mental health condition with that person in future. There’s no need to be excessively polite or kind to someone who is being patronising or dismissive, after all.

We hope you found the above guide to dealing with well-intentioned mental health insults useful – hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, it should serve as a handy reference point in future.

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Well-Intentioned Insults: The Patronisation Of People With Mental Health Conditions

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