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5 Strategies To Use When People Do Not Understand Mental Illness

You recently went to see a counselor to get help for your mental health, and you were diagnosed with a mental health condition. You then decide to tell your relatives and closest friends about your diagnosis. Unfortunately, some of them do not understand what you are going through. They try to “solve” your mental health challenges by giving their opinions or tell you that your condition isn’t real—that “it’s all in your head.” 

By Stan Popovich | Oct. 05, 2018

This is a very tough situation to be in. While you don’t want to isolate yourself from the people you care about, you also don’t want to let your relationships impede your recovery. 

With that in mind, here are five ways to deal with this situation.

1. Focus on Getting Better. Don’t waste your energy arguing with your friends or relatives who are giving you a difficult time. If you want, you can respectfully let them know where you stand, and how you feel about what they said. However, do not engage if it’s upsetting you or triggering your symptoms. This isn’t a public relations event where you need to gain everyone’s approval. This is your life and you’re the one struggling. Your energy and focus should be for you to get better.

2. Listen to the Professionals. Your friends and family may mean well, but when it comes down to it, they do not have the answers to your medical condition. So, do not go to them for advice on how to manage your symptoms or accept their advice if they give it voluntarily. When you have questions about your mental health, consult with your doctor, counselor or another mental health professional who is trained to help you manage your condition.

3. Tell Them to Learn about Your Condition. Tell your friends and relatives that the best way for them to help you is for them to try to understand your condition. They could talk to a counselor or go to family therapy, they could read some helpful books or join you at a support group. They won’t know exactly what you are going through, but this will help them learn how to support you.

4. Distance Yourself from People Who Give you a Hard Time. This may seem cruel, but if some of your friends or relatives are hindering your recovery progress, then you may need to distance yourself. Especially, if you have asked them to learn about your condition, and they have refused. As much as you can, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. 

5. Take Advantage of the Help That is Available Around you.If possible, talk to a professional about how to manage any difficult relationships. If you have problems or issues with a particular person, you can always ask your counselor for advice on what to do or how to talk to them. In the long run, this can help you learn valuable skills on what to do when a person doesn’t understand your condition.

Your mental illness is a medical condition. When a person has a medical condition, they typically go see a doctor to help treat it. The same thing applies to your mental health. Go see a professional and focus on getting better. Not everyone will understand what you’re going through, and that’s okay. You are the priority, not their approval. 

Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non-Resistant Methods.” Stan’s managing fear book has become popular with over 400 positive book reviews and counting. Please visit Stan’s website at

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