Mental Responsibilities

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 09-26-2021

We are responsible, first and foremost, for our own mental wellbeing. This isn’t to say that other people should never care, or that we must always suffer alone, this is more so about accountability. Accountability includes learning how our mental health impacts us, how to cope, and also how to recognize when our mental health symptoms/behaviors are impacting others. Our mental health symptoms often meddle in our daily lives and trickle into our relationships. Our symptoms can also get triggered by others. Then, there are times we may unintentionally harm other people when our symptoms are exacerbated.

     In this blog I want to talk about something that is very important, but rarely explored. How our mental health can impact others, and how to recognize it and mitigate this risk. Why? Because if we allow our mental health triggers/ symptoms to harm other people, we risk harming our relational ties and burning the bridges to our support systems. Not only do our mental health issues harm us internally, but they might also harm those around us, the ones we care about the most. This isn’t about blame, but about recognizing our human mistakes in relation to our mental projections.

       Many clients/ friends have vented about the issue of “no one cares”, or they have “driven many people away” due to their mental health condition. They often sum it up to an overall lack of empathy. Though this may be true at times, the other truth is harder to swallow. The reality that when our mental health condition goes untamed and unmanaged, it may do harm onto others. It may drive people away when we do not claim responsibility for recognizing, healing, monitoring, caring for and managing our symptoms in an appropriate manner.

     When desperation sinks in, people seek help from outside sources. And one of the most common mistakes many individuals with mental illness will make, is blurring the lines between help, and codependency. Meaning, we start relying on other individuals to be totally and completely responsible for our own mental wellbeing. Below, I will give various examples of what this can look like.

Examples of Assigning mental responsibility onto others:

  • When I’m sad/ bored I need you to be funny and keep me entertained.
  • When you do not text me back, you know I get anxious, I need you to text me within XX amount of time so I can calm down.
  • I need you around X amount of time so that I’m not lonely.
  • I really need a gym partner to workout with, otherwise I’m unmotivated and can’t go.
  • You made me angry and made me do that to you by being x, y, z.
  • You should do _________ for me so that I can feel like you care.
  • No one will help me!!! So why bother? It’s pointless. (Proceeds to never help themselves)
  • I would do _________, but my _________ won’t, so I won’t either.

     What do all of these examples have in common? The fact that if we do these things, we are pressuring other people to ease our symptoms for us. And why is this a problem? Because other people’s behaviors are out of our control. Another crucial issue with this is the guilt it may put onto others to try to ‘fix’ or ‘cure’ your mental distress. This can, in the long run, lead to resentment. Just as important as it is to choose our support system wisely, it is equally as important NOT to abuse our support system. The more reasonable/ practical way to ease the majority of our symptoms, is by learning to cope/ sooth ourselves. This can be done with the aid of a mental health therapist, life coach, self-help books, healthy coping activities and more. Our support system is for support, but no one in our support system can cure us completely. No one in our support system will be available to us always, because, they also have a life with their own life stressors. Also, some people may exacerbate our symptoms when we become codependent and/ or rely too heavily on them to ‘fix’ our issues. This will then have a counterproductive impact on our mental health/ healing goals.

     Taking accountability for our mental distress looks like:

  • This person did not message back or help, therefore they are not the person I go to when I need to confide.
  • I’m feeling ________ symptoms, _________ most likely triggered it. My best way to cope is by doing X. (Then proceed with engaging in chosen coping tool)
  • This person’s action made me feel upset because it triggered my memory of _______.
  • I am going to research my symptoms of ________ so that I can understand it better and better help myself in the future.
  • This person or circumstance upsets me OFTEN, therefore I will create boundaries with said person or circumstance so that I may protect myself/ heal properly.
  • It (mental illness/ symptom) is NOT my fault, and it is NOT fair, but there are things that I can do to manage or alleviate it, and I will try my best because I deserve to feel as good/ healthy as I possibly can.


      Accountability is always a delicate matter, but I have found when I help clients learn these tools, they are more equipped for handling their mental health condition. The clarity can work wonders and allow for a more beneficial healing process. And again, it is not about handling mental illness in isolation, it is about learning the healthiest way to navigate it while keeping our support systems intact. The goal is to do less harm to ourselves and others, so that we may never be alone. And also so, that when we happen to be alone, we can manage well.  As we put this into practice, we will become a more mature individual when it comes to managing our mental health and mitigating the harm it could do unto others. AKA: Mental Growth.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

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