Each of us has experienced rough days and times when our mental health has taken a hit. Moments when getting through the day feels like a struggle and routine tasks seem like a burden weighing down on us. There could be pain, numbness, chaos or overwhelming emptiness, as our individual experiences of difficult days can be very diverse. But what has stood out to me as a common thread that ties these experiences together is the role of words and their influence on us.
“Snap out of it”, “Cheer up”, “Stop overreacting”, “Just think positively”, “Stop whining and get on with your day”, “You are creating the mess you are in”. How often have we had these words said to us? How frequently might we have uttered these words in a genuine attempt to help a loved one?
Many of us are brought up in households where expressions of feelings are limited to “I feel good” or “I feel bad”. The focus of conversations remains on details of “what happened” without diving into “what did you feel about what happened”.
When our experience of being aware of and simply labelling our feelings has not been enriched, is it a surprise that knowing how to respond with sensitivity and empathy to another person’s feelings (or sometimes even our own) remains an alien concept? The commonness of this way of speaking claims so much space in our lives that we fail to recognize the disempowering effect it could have on a person. Here is where the question of our responsibility as individuals and as members of society steps in.
The responsibility to educate ourselves, to pause before we speak, to use that pause to check with ourselves if our words are truly helpful or harmful, and to admit to ourselves that if they are indeed harmful, then they are unacceptable. Words have the potential to damage someone’s relationship with their mental health and with themselves. But they hold equal power, if not more, of influencing de-stigmatization, connection, and compassion for people and their mental health.
Silence breeds stigma. Conversations break it. But using the right words in those conversations help catalyse the process of breaking it.
What if we could create a resource of helpful words from individuals, for society at large? What if these words could provide the kindness and safety that people need to receive on an emotionally rough day? What would it feel like to know that there are people out there who care and understand what a rough day is like, and who know what to say that might help?
TheMindClan.com, a mental health community platform from Mumbai, aims to provide resources for self-care to individuals. The platform has a specially curated list of counsellors from all around the city, who care deeply about mental health and are dedicated to helping you take care of yours. We initiated the #WeAreHere campaign as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, in May. This campaign encourages the community to use the power of words by sharing their answers to the question: “What would you like to tell someone who is having an emotionally rough day?” and collates the responses received. This repository of words is meant to not only provide relief to someone who needs it on a difficult mental health day, but also offer a window into what helpful responses to support someone on such days can look like. Some examples of these responses are:
“Everything that you are is enough.”
“Be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can.”
“We’re with you.”
So we ask you: Do you want to use your words to harm or heal? Let’s start making that choice here.