1. Because it’s bullshit. If you’re truly and severely mentally ill being told effectively to “man up” can drive people to struggle without getting appropriate support.
2. These adages are not psychological theories their pop psychology without the rigour of scientific research.
3. Many people who espouse these ideas are speaking from their own experience and generalising out to the general population of those who suffer mental illness.
I deliberately attempt to acknowledge that my expertise is my own experience. But if others find resonance or hope despite their difficulties, wow, awesome. But for others it may not resonate and that’s ok because we’re all different.
4. There is not a one size fits all. That’s why there are so many forms of psychological therapy.
5. Are you calling me dumb? These trite headlines are loaded with judgement. Don’t you think I’ve tried that? Do you think I succumbed without a struggle?
I was labelled neurotic or a worried well patient. I struggled for wellness, I followed counselling, walked, socialised despite anxiety and absolute apathy, I screamed into pillows.
6. Another glib phrase is “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Also hopelessly inappropriate if you suffer severe mental health.
If you don’t have the tools, have a personality disorder or inappropriate ways of viewing situations because of severe mental illness, especially if not diagnosed means you could very well worsen your position.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway” was my mantra for years and contributed to my breakdown.
7. The popularity of simply being positive can drive people underground. “Grin and bear it” and “fake it til you make it” we’re also mantras of mine. No one knew, had any idea, of what was going on in my head. The psychic agony and battles I faced on a daily basis.
People with severe mental illness need understanding, appropriate medical treatment and support. Don’t bring a personal crusade as if a Mary Poppins can eliminate depression world wide through a means that actually degrades sufferers who often have co-morbidities.
The premise of these pop psychology terms is that those with mental illnesses are weak and simply have to overcome their weakness.
Is there such a perspective on cancer, multiple sclerosis or a broken knee? For example. You have a broken leg. Just walk on your leg. No. The medical condition is assessed and appropriate treatment and support provided.
People commit suicide and I think the world is a lesser place without them. Did they feel they were taken seriously? Did they feel there was somewhere to go?
Suicide rates for younger Australians is the highest in ten years despite funding levels. Suicide rates for young women have doubled. This has been mirrored by a rise in self harm.
Professor Ian Hickie contradicted the general belief that online technology causes increased bullying and suicide risk.
“When technology is used appropriately to connect and support young people, actually suicidal behaviour… goes down.”
(Although as you know I’m not young) I similarly found genuine and supportive relationships in my everyday life as well as online helps me. When something happens, having people to share with or be with and accept me for who I am is reassuring and soothing.
Having said that, I don’t expect my friends to be round constant gloomy weather. If my mood won’t shift I tend to lie low, communicate online and invest in self care. If I’m more psychotic or manic I tend to isolate even more because interacting with others either friends in my life or online can be a trigger.
So if being positive works for you – great. CBT works for others. DBT works for yet others. Others are still in the process of finding something.
If I’m to generalise I’m all for judging as little as possible, trying to understand others, especially those who are struggling, and recognising the journey each individual is on, with respect and love.