By Make It OK-Iowa on Monday, March 2, 2020


Tips for talking about mental illness

Talking more openly about mental illnesses is one way we can reduce the stigma and Make It OK.  Sometimes we resort to silence because it can be hard to find the words to say. 

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Here are some of the tips to help you become more comfortable talking about mental illnesses.

What you can say:

Let’s pretend someone you know just told you they’re struggling with an anxiety disorder or depression. What do you say? Here are a few suggestions:

  • "Thanks for opening up to me."
  • "Is there anything I can do to help?"
  • "How can I help?"
  • "Thanks for sharing."
  • "I'm sorry to hear that. It must be tough."
  • "I'm here for you when you need me."
  • "I can't imagine what you're going through."
  • "People do get better."
  • "Oh man, that sucks."
  • "Can I drive you to an appointment?"
  • "How are you feeling today?"
  • "I love you.

What you shouldn't say:

Sometimes our words may reinforce the stigma. Remember that mental illnesses are biological in nature, just like diabetes, and need treatment. Avoid using derogatory or dismissing language, such as:

  • "It could be worse."
  • "Just deal with it."
  • "Snap out of it."
  • "Everyone feels that way sometimes."
  • "You may have brought this on yourself."
  • "We've all been there."
  • "You've got to pull yourself together."
  • "Maybe try thinking happier thoughts."
  • Don’t use words such as "crazy," "psycho," "nuts" or "insane."

MENTAL ILLNESS: Read stories from Iowans | Learn about common conditions

Rule of thumb

Although talking about mental illnesses may be uncomfortable for you at first, know that it is also a difficult conversation for your friend. Be nice, supportive and listen. Offer to help and keep the conversation going. Click here to download more tips for talking about mental illness.

— Blog content adapted from

MIOlogoMake It OK is community campaign to reduce stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness.  Start by learning what a mental illness really is. Then, find out what to say and not to say when someone opens up to you.  You can also help others by sharing your own story to help people know they aren’t alone. Learn more about how you can get involved at