Talking To Mental Health Patients

Male psychiatrist sitting on couch talking to patient with hands on head

Holding A Normal Conversation

Many mental health patients are sick of their doctors, friends and family members always asking them questions about their illness. Imagine always being asked the same questions, “Any auditory or visual hallucinations? Do you believe others can put thoughts into your mind? How’s your mood? Do you have any anxiety? How’s your sleep and appetite?” It not only feels robotic to ask them the same questions every day, but it also feels robotic for them to provide the same responses.

Don’t get me wrong; psychiatrists do need to ask these questions in order to assess patients’ mental status, but we also need to learn how to incorporate more normal conversations during our encounters. When we ask mental health patients the same questions every time we see them, it can make them feel like they are less than us. This is because we give them the impression that they are “different” and that we can’t hold normal conversations with them.

At the end of the day, mental illness or not, patients are still human beings who can hold normal conversations and discuss everyday events; we must treat them like so. You’ll bring much more happiness into their lives if you can discuss everyday events without jumping to questions that dig away at their symptoms. A patient will tell you their symptoms even if you don’t rush to those particular questions, because they are the ones suffering from the symptoms in the first place and need them addressed.

So let them discuss everyday events and address their symptoms at their own pace. This applies to whether you have a relationship or friendship with a patient; don’t look at them differently and definitely don’t treat them differently. Do you treat people with diabetes differently? The same applies with mental health patients. Even if they are extremely psychotic but not dangerous to anyone, you can still say something as simple as, “Hi Leonard! Hope you have a good day.”

At the end of the day, let’s normalize mental health and hold normal everyday conversations with each other. Forget the stigma and judgmental ways of the past; those need to be buried for good. Rather, let’s move forward together and create a worldwide platform that will be of help to anyone in need. This platform should be based on honesty, love, sincerity and the desire to improve and help one another.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Experience Your Sadness

Sad woman leaning on windowsill staring outside

Not Running Away From Sadness

Whenever we experience sadness, we tend to bury it right away rather than allowing it to linger. This is because nobody likes the feeling of sadness so it’s easier to just brush it under the carpet and clean it up later. The problem with doing so is that you are not processing what is making you feel sad in the first place. Even though sadness is an uncomfortable emotion, you want to fully immerse yourself in it and see what thoughts and feelings will come out of it.

For some, it’s not an easy process because they feel like their ego is being jeopardized. They believe that if they feel sad, their masculinity is being threatened. For others on the opposite end of the spectrum, they tend to spend too much time dwelling over their sadness, experiencing it all day and never letting go of it. You don’t want to be at any end of the spectrum; the happy medium is always best.

This involves experiencing sadness when it kicks in but also knowing when to turn it off when certain circumstances arise. If you’re at work, it’s better to suppress it for the time being and revisit it later on. But if you’re at home and have nothing important to do, you can try practicing mindfulness while also becoming in touch with your sadness. This will allow you to process the thoughts associated with your sadness and potentially help you recover from it.

It’s always better to process your sadness rather than leaving it unhinged. There’s almost always a reason that you are feeling sad and you need to get to the bottom of it. Don’t be afraid to reveal new thoughts and feelings which are foreign to you; this is the process of growing in life. And always remember that you are never alone in experiencing sadness; millions of people all over the world are experiencing it with you this very moment.

What are some things that you are sad about?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

You Are Free Of Emotional Pain

Red human eye with pink liquid dripping out

Positive Affirmation: Emotional Pain

“I am free of emotional pain because I am in tune with my emotions and I am in control of them at all times. Even when people hurt me, I know how to immediately recognize negative emotions and process them effectively. I don’t allow emotional pain to hold me back in life. Emotions are like clouds that come and go; I observe and process them and allow them to float away. I am in control of how I feel today and tomorrow!”

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Depressed On Drugs

Person sitting on train track with cloud of smoke in the dark

Using Drugs To Cope With Depression

Not everyone will admit that they use drugs to cope with depression, but it’s quite common. Whether it’s your bottle of liquor, line of cocaine or blunt of marijuana, substance use comes in quite handy in times of depression. But there’s a catch; they actually make your depression worse in the long run because they don’t fix the problem to begin with. Substances only mask the problem, allowing you to believe that you can now live your life without experiencing the symptoms of depression.

Another danger with using substances to cope with depression is the increased risk of impulsive acts. Substances give you more power, freedom and ability to perform acts which you otherwise would not have if you were sober. In relation to depression, the most severe act is a suicide attempt. Because substances impair your judgment as well, you can end up doing something very dangerous towards yourself or others.

Many patients will deny having problems with substances and you can tell so by observing how they become defensive about the topic when you inquire more about their alleged use of a substance. If you pay attention to their body language as well as to the tone of their voice, you will realize that they experience your questions as intrusive, judgmental and even accusatory.

But you’re not doing any of that (hopefully)! What you’re in fact doing is called motivational interviewing; a technique utilized with substance abuse patients that attempts to understand where they are coming from and whether they are ready to make a change, the change being to eventually quit the substance. But patients who are depressed may have a more difficult time with motivational interviewing because many will hide their substance abuse in the first place.

Depressed patients typically have a low self-esteem during their depressive episodes, so the last thing that they want to do is to reveal their problems with substances; some might, but many won’t. Depression and substance abuse is a deadly combination because the substances give more power to the user to commit suicide. In addition, substances and psychiatric medications are never a good mix, sometimes even inducing serotonin syndrome if a combination of cocaine and SSRIs are used.

If you encounter a depressed person and you suspect substance abuse, then you’re likely right. But don’t pressure them to reveal their use; this will almost always backfire. Inquire and show your concern, but allow them to slowly reveal it to you when they are ready. Rather, you want to focus more on their depression because often times, it’s their depression that made them start abusing substances in the first place.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Not Fearing COVID-19

Man and woman kissing via two white iPhones next to coffee mug and spoon on wooden table

I Am Stronger Than A Virus

COVID has definitely affected the mental health of many people worldwide. It continues to affect the mental health of many because it brings pain, fear and destruction upon humanity. Anytime that there is a disaster in our society, shockwaves are sent to peoples’ minds, affecting their mental health adversely. Have I mentioned that watching the media does not help? The media is almost as contagious as the virus itself.

You have to learn how to not fear this virus and to continue to live your life as if there was no virus, but by also practicing good hygiene and the necessary precautions of staying safe and not acquiring the virus. Social distancing have become two annoying words and I hate to see it become part of our psychological relations, but unfortunately humanity has already been infected with this concept.

Don’t you think it’s about time to replace “social distancing” with “common sense?” This involves not being to close to strangers, but this does not mean that you should not be hugging, shaking hands or even kissing those who you know or are close to you. I know, I know . . . the media and “top health experts” will tell you otherwise, but don’t you think that the social distancing that they want us to practice is adversely affecting our mental health?

At the end of the day, we have to live our lives and this should not involve being locked up in our homes and practicing “social distancing” 24/7. When we do this, we allow the virus to win. Yes, there are currently many lives being lost in the southern U.S. as well as in South America and Africa, but there must be another solution that we can effectively implement. We cannot keep practicing social distancing for the next decade or we will truly lose our minds.

What are some suggestions that you think we can implement that will prevent us from becoming infected, but at the same time allow us to live a normal life again?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Are You In Isolation?

Depressed white woman sitting on ground surrounded by leaves near trees

Share Your Pain With The World

Are you in isolation but just not sharing it with the world? Do you feel like you have to hide your pain or mental illness out of fear of ridicule and embarrassment? Do you feel like you’re spiraling into a black hole with no one there to save you? If yes to any of these questions, then you are not alone. Many people all around the world feel isolated despite having friends, colleagues, coworkers, family members or acquaintances to interact with. Isolation can mean many different things to each individual, but we all experience it at some point or another.

I’m sure you already know that isolation is worse than the potential embarrassment that you may experience by sharing your pain or mental illness with the world. What’s the worst that can happen with embarrassment, if it even does happen? You’ll start caring what other people think about you, like it even matters? But what’s the worst that can happen with isolation? Suicide.

When people are depressed and isolated, it becomes much easier for them to act on their suicidal thoughts; they have no distractions at hand. Depressingly enough, the thought of ending their life becomes their distraction, as a means of escaping their misery and torture. You may not really be as depressed as you think you are, but if you continue isolating yourself, the depression that you are experiencing can begin to spiral out of control.

So rather than isolating yourself, find someone who you are comfortable with and share your pain, frustration or mental illness. And if you don’t have anyone to share it with, then seek a psychiatrist, psychologist and/or therapist. Never go through your problems on your own! We are in this together.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

We Are In This Together

Diagram of person's head with black vessels running through brain

We Are A Mental Health Family

The DSM Ready Community was started in order to attract an international body of people who have or currently suffer from a mental illness or just want to discuss mental health issues in general. Not everyone suffers from a mental illness, but everyone suffers from mental distress at some point in their lives. No one is able to say, “I’ve never felt anything before.” We all have! By opening up about your issues, we will be able to attract more people into this community and help the stigma of mental health fade away for good!

I Am Immune To Negativity

Young black man with glasses holding hand on chin

Positive Affirmation: Negativity

“I am immune to negativity because I don’t allow outside forces to influence me and affect my emotions, state of mind and mental wellbeing. Negativity does not penetrate me because I am comfortable in my own skin and do not allow outside forces to break into my psyche in order to put me down. I can walk through life with many arrows shot at me and I will not fall because I stand straight and tall and I am confident in my actions. I am immune to negativity day and night!”

Paralyzed By Depression

Depressed man sitting on wooden floor with head down on lap

Day Consumed By Depression

Anyone who has ever experienced depression knows that it’s sometimes brought upon you by an unexpected wave that you never saw coming. It’s not like you wake up one day and you’re depressed; that’s not what we’re talking about. You don’t see the depression coming but you can definitely sense the bits and pieces of it trickling in. In other others, you’re not going to point at a calendar and say, “I’ll probably feel depressed July 4th.” It just happens.

But when the feeling hits you on that particular day, you’ll definitely know that you’re experiencing it. It feels like the inside of you is melting; you feel the pain spreading through your arms and legs and it’s especially heavy in the center of your chest. It’s as if your heart is pumping depressed blood and you’re slowing becoming paralyzed in mind and body; you can feel your soul kicking like the legs of a fetus in the uterus of a pregnant woman.

When the episode has begun, it’s very hard to just snap out of it and turn your day around. This takes a lot of strength and past experience and who wants to be that guy who has a lot of experience snapping out of depression? It’s not something that you necessarily want in your arsenal. It’s difficult to snap out of depression during that day because like I previously said, you feel paralyzed and out of options, as if riding the wave is the easiest thing to do.

If something exciting happens during the day, it makes snapping out of the depression much easier, but let’s be honest, how many of us have random exciting things that we can rely on to snap us out of these episodes? On second thought, even wealthy people who have tons of things to be excited about often can’t snap out of their depressive fits; the wave is just too powerful.

So what you’ll end up doing is trying to hold on for dear life and avoid drowning. If you can get to the end of the day near your bedtime, you’ll know that you have made it. I want to make clear that the depression that I am referring to is not the psychiatric diagnosis of “major depressive disorder.” I am referring to a general feeling of sadness that you can refer to as feeling “depressed,” but it’s not the same thing as major depression, which involves symptoms such as decreased sleep, interest, appetite, concentration, guilt and suicidal ideations for at least two weeks in a row.

We all experience sadness, but it’s one thing to be sad for one hour of the day and another to have your entire day consumed by depression. The latter involves your day psychologically going to waste. You may have accomplished chores and tasks and even have done fun things, but nothing was truly enjoyable because depression was eating you alive from the inside out. Sometimes talking to someone may help alleviate your depression, but keep in mind that it’s quite difficult to surf your way off the wave when you feel like it.

Oftentimes, when the wave arrives, it’s fair to say that you’ll be riding it all day. Your goal is to alleviate the falls and try to maintain as smooth of a ride as possible. If you can coast throughout the day without falling, consider yourself having experienced a minor depressive fit. When you wake up the next day, make sure that you maintain positive thoughts from the moment that you open your eyes, so that you don’t give depression and its associated wave a second run for its money.

You are not in this alone. Always feel free to engage with The DSM Ready Community for help and support!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

I Am The Master Of My Depression

Depressed white woman wearing bunny ears outfit with hands covering face

Positive Affirmation: Controlling Depression

“I am the master of my depression because I don’t deny its existence when its wave comes upon me. Rather, I experience its associated symptoms and do not attempt to fight back, and realize that I am truly in control of it by reminding myself that I am stronger. Depression may strike at any moment, but it is I who still hold the keys to my mind and it is I who am the master of this ship!”