In this case, treatment can mean psychological treatment for any mental illness, as well as rehab or detox. It's a touchy subject, to be sure. You wonder if you should mention it, you don't know what to say, or how to bring it up. It depends on the nature of your relationship with your friend as to when and how you discuss it. But when the time comes, here are 5 things definitely not to say:
- "You must feel like such a failure. I can't imagine."Ouch. Please don't say that. I am not sure what people are thinking when they say this. It may be an attempt to be empathetic, to try to identify with how the other person feels, to try to relate. Regardless of what you mean, what your friend will hear you say is, "I think you failed as a parent, and I can't really relate to that." If your friend didn't feel like a failure before, you have just planted the seed that perhaps she should. Believe me, saying this will definitely not help.
- "I bet you wish you could do it over again." Ugh. This will leave your friend wondering if you think she did something wrong in the past, which has caused her child to be in treatment now. The underlying implication here is that the fault lies with her, and that if she had a do over, she could undo what she did wrong. Certainly, parents of kids in treatment have enough guilt without a friend inadvertently substantiating that she should feel just that way!
- "Don't worry, things will be back to normal in no time." Honestly, probably not. If someone is in treatment, there really isn't a quick fix, and your friend and her family will likely feel the impact for quite some time. Saying this will show your friend that you either don't understand the enormity of the problem, or you just don't get it. Neither will be helpful.
- "You think you've got it bad, wait until you hear this!" Finding a bigger or worse horror story so that your friend won't feel so bad about her own problems will only serve to invalidate how she feels. Your friend will need to talk to you or someone else about her own situation without being one-upped by someone else's supposedly worse problems.
- "At least she/he didn't overdose or attempt suicide." First, are you sure she/he didn't? Understand that you may not know the whole story. Assume nothing. Also, it will be annoying to your friend to be told to look on the bright side of a difficult situation until she is ready to do that on her own. Your friend needs to be allowed to feel however she feels without it being implied that it could be worse.
If it was you who had the child in treatment, what would you want your friends to say to you?
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