In my book, Your Mental Health and You, one of the things I emphasize is the importance of not only getting support but also who you get that support from. This is because who you take advice from can honestly make or break the progress of your treatment.

Such as in the following examples:

1) The friend or family member who thinks, because they know you, they understand your medical issues better than a qualified professional

Unless your friend or a family member has a BA or BSC in pharmacology, psychology, nursing or medicine, they don’t have the qualifications of a person who has spent between 8 and 12 years in school studying these very complicated subjects.

When a person doesn’t have the proper training they only see the issue through their own eyes and may not recognize how their own personal beliefs, biases and observations may interfere with their personal opinions.

The best advice a family member or friend can give is not only to help you understand the importance of seeking help but also remind you that seeking help isn’t something you should ever feel shame or embarrassment for.

“Psychological issues tend to be very complex and not dealing with them correctly, or ignoring a certain aspect of their condition and treatment or dealing with it the wrong way, makes them that much more complex” – Your Mental Health and You

2) The person who thinks because they’ve experienced similar things, they know everything about you OR that their experience makes them as knowledgeable as a professional. (Depending on the person, they may actually be helpful)

I’m not trying to trivialize anyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness with the above statement. What I mean is that many people go through things differently and some people take a very healthy approach to their physical and psychological health.

There are also others who refuse help and don’t take into account how they sabotage their own progress. Who don’t see past their own issues and due to a lack of self-awareness, they can’t see (or refuse to see) past their own attitudes and beliefs.

Also, anything related to psychology. We need to remember that those issues have millions of different variables that affect an individual. What is traumatic for you might have no effect on another person. Which is why anything related to mental illness is incredibly complicated, and any treatments should be based on what works for the individual.

My old psychology professor gave me a piece of life-changing advice once when I really needed it. The advice was: In order to help others, you first need to learn to help yourself.

3) The friend who thinks big pharma is the cause of everything wrong in the world. Especially if they get their information from online health gurus who promote unregulated treatments.

In the age of social media and YouTube, everyone who can type something into Google and press enter considers themselves to be an expert. Hence, why things such as the anti-vax movement are spreading like a metaphorical wildfire. Just Google “ADHD medication is,” and look at the negative automated search results.

Remember when you have any questions regarding your medication, please ask your doctor or pharmacist. Granted, the pharmaceutical industry isn’t perfect but it has helped millions of people live healthy lives. Including myself, and many people you know, as well.

4) The person who tells you your mental illness is all in your head

In a way, mental illness is in your head, but not due to your medical condition being fake. It’s due to the fact that mental health issues are psychology- and cognitive-based. There are different types of brain scans that measure the physical and chemical makeup of our brain.

Those scans do show that these conditions are real regardless of what the naysayers seem to think.

When people demean your condition by saying it’s fake or a character flaw – keep in mind, it’s them who has the issue and not you who has the character flaw. These types of people make us feel as if it’s our fault for being diagnosed with a valid medical condition.

Regardless of how incorrect their opinions are, they keep yapping away about something they honestly know nothing about. My best advice for these types is to treat irrelevant opinions for what they are: irrelevant opinions.

5) The person who tells you “Back in my day, no one had ADHD, Anxiety etc.”

Every time throughout human history, every medical or psychological condition was not understood or named.

This isn’t due to those issues not existing. It’s because, at the time, the medical field didn’t have the means to perform the research and development needed to understand and diagnose those conditions.

In conclusion: When it comes to taking advice on your mental health, remember the following rules:

  1. Does the person support you for seeking help, or do they hold it against you or shame or stigmatize you for seeking help?
  2. Does the person claim to know everything mental health-related, or do they help you see why professional help is so vital?
  3. Does the person say things such as “Isn’t everyone a little ADHD” and other inaccurate statements? If so, please don’t listen to anything they say about mental health.
  4. Does the person make you feel like your diagnosis is a burden, fake or anything other than the valid medical condition it is? If so don’t listen to anything they say.

About the Author

Sandy Pace is a mental health advocate from Calgary, Alberta and also the author of Your Mental Health and You (Austin Macauley USA in NYC).