Telling your friends to “cheer up” can be harmful

Monday, May 22, 2023

Toxic positivity is a term used to describe the idea that we should always look on the bright side of life, even when things are not going well. While it’s nice to have a positive attitude, toxic positivity can be harmful, especially when it comes to mental health.

When we tell someone who is struggling with mental health issues to “just think positive” or “look on the bright side,” we may unintentionally be invalidating their experiences and feelings. This can make them feel even worse and prevent them from seeking help.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in five adults in the United States experience a mental illness each year. That’s roughly 51.5 million people. With such a large number of individuals struggling with mental health conditions, it’s crucial that we provide them with the right kind of support.

Instead of telling people to “cheer up” or “just be positive,” we need to acknowledge their feelings and offer them empathy and understanding. Studies show that social support and empathy are crucial factors in recovery from mental health conditions.

Better Ways to Support Those with Mental Health Conditions:

  1. Listen and Validate

When someone opens up to you about their struggles with mental health, it’s essential to listen to them without judgment. Let them know that you hear and understand them. Validate their feelings and acknowledge that their experience is real and difficult.

  1. Offer Practical Support

Offering practical support, such as helping them with everyday tasks, can be very helpful. For example, you could offer to do their grocery shopping or cook them a meal.

  1. Encourage Professional Help

Encourage them to seek professional help. Mental health conditions are medical conditions and should be treated as such. Encourage them to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

  1. Be Patient

Recovery from mental health conditions takes time. It’s essential to be patient and understanding. Don’t pressure them to “get over it” or “move on.” Everyone’s recovery journey is different.

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