The Trouble with Giving Advice

Let me preface this blog by saying that I am in no way discouraging people from talking to others about mental illness, or even giving advice. Please read the full thing and take it for what it is rather than assuming. On to the blog

I have noticed lately a large number of people on twitch that want to give advice to others on handling mental illness. Even I do this on occasion, caring humans can’t help it. We see people struggling and we want to help, especially if we can relate to said struggles. The problem lies in the fact that we are not mental health professionals. It’s great to want to help, to want to give advice, to tell people what we do that helps us. It’s not okay to present yourself as though you have the solution or answers that an actual doctor would have.

You aren’t a therapist because you listen to people complain. You aren’t a therapist because you have your own mental health problems. You aren’t a therapist because you are caring. You are a person with a certain perspective, one that might even be helpful, but one that can also be damaging. Telling people “you know what helps with anxiety” and then give a list of what works for YOU can be a double edged sword. Sharing what helps you could help someone else, but it might not help everybody. Saying “you should do ____ for your depression” might lead someone to follow your advice and they might not be helped by it, or even worse damaged by it.

That’s not to say that I believe that everyone needs to completely stop with giving advice, offering to listen, and even sharing their own experiences. I do think people need to be more careful about how they go about it. Make sure when you are talking about things that help, that you acknowledge that they were things that helped YOU and might not help others. Remember there is no cure all for any mental illness so saying x, y, and z will fix/help anxiety is a dangerous road. Also acknowledge your own limitations in your advice giving, and encourage people that need help to seek help from the proper sources should they need to. On that note, if you aren’t a mental health professional then you aren’t… that’s all there is to it. I shouldn’t have to say that, but I really do. I have seen multiple people say “well I work this job so I am basically a therapist because I listen to people all the time”. Listening to people does not give you the experience or education to actually give competent and medically sound advice. You either are a mental health professional or you aren’t, there’s no “I’m basically” about it.

Again I am not saying that you should stop listening to/trying to help others. Just maybe we should all be a little more careful about it.

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I am a writer and streamer by trade. A gamer, reader, and all around nerd by hobby ;)

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