Discrimination from friends hard to handle
Annie (36) is frustrated with her friends after an episode of mental distress four years
Since then, Annie’s been getting help, working through a lot of buried trauma and joining
group therapy. She has a very supportive family and knows she isn’t alone, but still
struggles with discrimination from her friends.
Annie has always been the ‘come-to’ person when friends and others in her neighbourhood
have problems, but after a series of invalidating experiences has realised that if she
comes to them with her problems, they think she’s over reacting.
“I cannot so much as express something remotely negative, nor be even mildly irritated by
anything, without my friends later telling me they thought I was ‘losing it’ again,” she
Annie’s friends talk about people who discriminate against people with mental ill health
as though they are better than them.
“What they don't realise, though, is that I regularly deal with their discrimination
because of the way they look at and respond to me,” she says.
“They say they are my closest friends and want to protect me, but it makes them
hyper-vigilant. They are constantly scrutinising me because of my experience of mental
distress and don’t make the same allowances as they would if I’d been physically ill. ”
Remember not to over-react
Annie has thought about explaining things to her friends, but is certain the conversation
would be deemed an over-reaction too.
She’s decided to share her thoughts with a wider audience to raise awareness in others
who may also be unintentionally treating their friends the same way – in the hope they
may learn from it.
“If you're concerned about the behaviour of someone who has experienced mental illness,
please stop and ask yourself if that behaviour would be of so much concern to you if it
weren't for their mental health history,” Annie says.
“If it wouldn't concern you as much, and you would respond quite differently, maybe you
are being discriminatory.”
Starting a conversation
Annie hopes by focussing attention on this subtle form of discrimination, people will
realise they can’t judge others by a prior experience of mental distress.
She advises people not to jump to conclusions by assuming someone’s behaviour means
anything other than it does.
“You can keep people stuck if you think they are going to become unwell again,” she says.
“Start a conversation, listen, don’t over-react and be a good friend. Your positive
support makes all the difference.”