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to think people's mental health is a private matter?

(28 Posts)
DrSeuss Mon 12-Sep-16 09:04:36

On the one hand, I do think that we need to be more open about these things. You wouldn't hide the fact that you had a physical illness so why hide the fact that you have a mental health issue? On the other, I know from experience that I have to be careful who I tell about my previous bouts of depression as some people are not at all sympathetic, some will use the information against you and some just plain don't understand.

I recently stopped off at my MIL's on the way home from a visit to a friend who has suffered at times from depression so bad that she cannot work or sometimes even function normally. Thankfully, at present, she is feeling a lot better although is still unwell. My MIL has met this friend a handful of times and last spoke to her at my son's second birthday party. My son is now ten, so that was quite a while ago. During my visit she asked me a couple of times about my friend and how she was. Both times I replied, "Fine." I was very unwilling to say more as my friend had not authorised me to do so and my MIL barely knows her! Also, MIL has a deserved reputation for being unable to keep her mouth shut.

She later asked me again on the 'phone and I again said, "Fine." and told her quite bluntly that she had now asked me three times and that was all I was ever going to say. She then did her usual thing when challenged about her nosiness in telling me that I was unreasonable and that she was just displaying concern. For someone she last spoke to eight years ago. On a very sensitive topic. Yeah right.

AIBU in thinking that I am not at fault, despite her best efforts to persuade me otherwise? She knows that my friend has depression and she was after detail. I asked my friend what I should have said and she told me to just say that she does a lot of handicrafts at present. There will be a next time. AIBU in feeling that this is less about concern than voyeurism?

Arseicle Mon 12-Sep-16 09:16:42

Well either you think its something to be hidden and not talked about or you don't. If the question was how is her broken leg, would you have answered that?
If so, you're being a little hypocritical.

DrSeuss Mon 12-Sep-16 09:21:03

My MIL wasn't after information, she was after dirt. I think it would be better to be open but don't think it's for me to be open on other people's behalf, without their permission, to people who don't know them!

ChicRock Mon 12-Sep-16 09:27:32

This is more a MIL thread than a thread about keeping people's mental health private.

You obviously don't like your MIL very much and I suspect that had it been someone that you do like, asking how your friend was, you'd have expanded a bit more on "fine".

MatildaTheCat Mon 12-Sep-16 09:33:36

YANBU, if your friend had had a dose of flu ten years ago your mil wouldn't still be asking after her. Probably not asthma or arthritis either.

One of my closest friends has very well controlled bi polar and almost nobody outside her family know this because she knows that she will face prejudice and prurience.

Amelie10 Mon 12-Sep-16 09:40:23

You are being rude with your 'fine' answers. Couldn't you answer in a more pleasant way without giving too much information?

Trifleorbust Mon 12-Sep-16 09:43:47

I think you were absolutely spot on. It is private. Your friend can decide for herself to disclose detail to people she knows, or not.

YourNewspaperIsShit Mon 12-Sep-16 09:46:46

YANBU she's being nosy and I have no idea how you tolerate it, it would drive me mad blush

YourNewspaperIsShit Mon 12-Sep-16 09:48:21

Also once someone answers 'fine' who on earth would continue to goad for more information, if you were going to say something you would have the first three times

FreddyFireflyCanFeckOff Mon 12-Sep-16 09:51:00

You are not being unreasonable.

I fully believe that in order to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, that being open and honest with our personal experiences is vital. Mental health professionals obviously play a major part in changing public opinon too.

I do not think it is your place to discuss another persons illness, physical or mental. If your MIL is so concerned, she can ask the friend herself.

I have experienced both anxiety and depression, and I would openly speak about them, however would not appreciate others doing so without my consent.

maggiethemagpie Mon 12-Sep-16 09:51:41

Absolutely. When I was diagnosed with a MH condition a few years ago, which I have now recovered from, I hardly told anyone as it was extremely stigmatised. I thought of it as 'the illness which dare not speak it's name'.

With you're MIL if she pushes you, just keep saying 'it's not something I can really discuss' like a stuck record until she gets the message.

What an insensitive prat she is!

MrsJayy Mon 12-Sep-16 09:53:55

Your mil was wanting the details so she could have a gossip saying a person is fine is fine your friends health physical or mental is her bussiness . nosy people love the gory details

elliejjtiny Mon 12-Sep-16 09:53:56

YANBU, your MIL was wanting to gossip. I know people say that you'd tell her if it was physical but you wouldn't tell her if your friend had piles or continence problems.

MrsJayy Mon 12-Sep-16 10:01:16

Soo how's her piles you just wouldn't would you grin

Arseicle Mon 12-Sep-16 12:58:41

Then it hsa nothing at all to do with mental health and the thread actually is "My mil is a gossip".

RedSauceAndJellyJuice Mon 12-Sep-16 13:02:08

I agree with you OP

manicinsomniac Mon 12-Sep-16 13:18:00


Talking about mental health is just not the same as talking about physical health.

Why does your mother in law even know that someone she hasn't see for 8 years (and was therefore presumably never very close too) has depression?

I would never tell anyone I wasn't very close to about my mental illnesses and would be hurt and mortified if any of them told anyone else. It's private and it is embarrassing/shameful.

Whereas I don't really care if the world and his dog knows if I have the flu or break my leg.

A serious physical illness (terminal ones, cancer etc) starts to rank alongside mental ones in the privacy stakes I think.

Health is not like for like, there's a hierarchy of what's okay to ask about.

S1lentAllTheseYears Mon 12-Sep-16 13:31:21

Yanbu. It is up to your friend and she has said she doesn't want your mil knowing the details so that's that!

It's not something to be ashamed of but that doesn't mean she wants the world and his wife knowing the details - especially if it's more gossip than supportive/concern.

Perhaps, instead of 'fine' you could say something like 'she's doing well at the moment but prefers it if people don't discuss it.'

When I had gynae problems, I didn't want anyone to know either! It's not the same as a broken leg.

ApocalypseSlough Mon 12-Sep-16 13:38:15

The broken leg analogy is really crap. Broken legs invariably heal, they can be seen on X-Rays, the prognosis is generally good and more important, predictable and verifiable.
OP I deal with intrusive questioners by being very blandly very chatty. So a positive avalanche of trivia and diversion. 😂 'It was lovely seeing friend, her daughter's got into Plymouth do you remember when we watched that film about the Plymouth brethren, what was the actor called- you know he was in that murder mystery series, was it Broadchurch? I do like Olivia Coleman.'

ApocalypseSlough Mon 12-Sep-16 13:40:33

That doesn't work with these types S1lent it gets turned into 'I saw Dil's friend the other day, so sad and she's very private, she doesn't like to talk about you know what'
Say nothing.

71HourAchmed Mon 12-Sep-16 13:51:27


I'm a big believer that the stigma around mental health can only be removed if more people feel comfortable discussing their experiences. I've suffered from a number of mental health conditions over the years.

HOWEVER, if I choose to discuss my health (mental or physical) with anyone, then that is my decision. It is not appropriate to discuss someone else's health problems unless they specifically have said that it is ok.

I'll tell just about anyone (quite literally - I'm in a video for work - 20000+ employees - talking about it), but I'd feel quite upset if someone I trusted thought that that meant they could discuss them willy-nilly. There's things I will talk about to just about anyone, and there's parts that really are only for those close to me.

I don't think you were rude to your MIL - she was rude for repeatedly asking

Arseicle Mon 12-Sep-16 13:52:39

The broken leg analogy is really crap. Broken legs invariably heal, they can be seen on X-Rays, the prognosis is generally good and more important, predictable and verifiable

Except none of that makes any difference to the analogy in this context

Context is everything.

MindSweeper Mon 12-Sep-16 13:59:36

I think the issue here is the MIL.

Asking about someone's health is a polite and kind thing to do, but you said she was doing it to dig dirt. So thats the issue. Not the 'mental health should be private'

Seeyouontheotherside Mon 12-Sep-16 14:02:53

I think you have to be very careful who you share personal information with because there is a certain type of person who will actively exploit that to gaslight you, manipulate other peoples opinions of you, distort situations, undermine your credibility, abuse you and claim that it's you "you're crazy". There are a lot of that type. That is the reality.

I had very serious problems years ago and the worst thing I did was open my mouth because I was immediately preyed upon.

I would always advice someone, go to a health professional but be wary of everyone, even your own family and friends. Most cannot be trusted. Trust only the most discreet, private people who have no interest in creating drama or gossiping.

Certainly don't tell the whole world, at least not until you're fully recovered. You'll be a target of extremely toxic, manipulative people who specialise in that because that's all they do.

MrsHathaway Mon 12-Sep-16 14:03:52

It's less like asking after a broken leg (current, transient) and more like asking after someone's autoimmune thyroid (lifelong, with acute phases).

My mother once told me in that awful hush-hush voice that someone she knew was depressed so "obviously" was completely unreliable. She still considers that person undependable.

Guess who I've never had a conversation about MH with ever again?

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