Ditch Mental Health Advice, Seek Mental Health Guidance Instead

Jordan Brown

This is a strange one, considering what I write about.

I'm a random guy writing about mental health online and sharing my tips and thoughts.

So it might seem odd that I'm telling you to be careful about accepting mental health advice.

But there's a reason I'm putting out this warning.

Because there's something better than advice.

And I want you to know about it.

Anyone Can Give Mental Health Advice

Let's be real. It's 2020. Most of the world has access to the Internet.

While this is a wonderful thing, it also gives everyone a platform, a huge stage to spew anything and everything to anyone who will listen.

And that includes giving advice, even when people don't ask for it.

You see, I think of advice as unexpected instructions. When I'm not asking for guidance, and people tell me how I should live my life, that's advice.

And with mental health, that's really dangerous. Everyone has an idea about what's wrong with you.

Not getting enough sleep? Maybe you're depressed and you should take sleeping pills.

Feeling bloated? Oh, that's definitely your anxiety and you need to learn to calm down.

Thanks, Karen.

This is the kind of thing that I really try to stay away from online.

Even though I'm a trained social worker, and even though people come to me often with questions, I really, really try to avoid giving advice.

In fact, I was very intentional about how I created this newsletter and framed its meaning for the world.

This is a newsletter about finding common ground and about sharing wisdom that I've found helpful. It's not about me knowing what's best for anyone who will listen to me.

I know you know your life best, and I expect you to know if something I share will be helpful or not.

And that's the whole point.

You don't need advice because you already have the answers you need.

But sometimes it's helpful to have someone who's been there to help you unearth those answers from the dirt and muck that's built up over the years in your heart and mind.

How to Identify Mental Health Guidance

This brings me to the core of my message.

Mental health advice is bad. If you're following me on this, I think you're going to like where we're heading next.

Ready for the big epiphany I discovered?

Here it is:

The only method I've ever found that works in successfully changing my own life is to come across the answer in my own way.

I need to be receptive to the change. I need to want to change.

Here a Few Was to Know When You've Found Mental Health Guidance, Not Mental Health Advice

The Information Source is Not Pushy

Does this person, group, entity, etc. let you draw your own conclusions? Do they value what you have to say?

Real change happens because both parties are changed in the process. I get just as much--if not more--from my readers than I give. It's a wonderful thing.

They've Been Where You Want to Go

Is someone telling you how to do something but they've never actually done it themselves? I'm not saying they have to have done the exact same thing down to every last detail. I'm saying, have they ever been in a situation that is even remotely close to what you're struggling with?

If not, that's a big warning sign, and you're most likely venturing into the Land of Bad Advice.

Look for people who've walked the walk and emerged wiser and softer around the edges. If a person has a chip on their shoulder and is taking out their issues on you, that's a sign that they're still in the thick of it and need to do their own work before they help others.

Avoid the Needlessly Complicated

The best kind of mental health guidance is the guidance that just makes sense. Now, this can sound a bit vague, so just hang with me for a second.

Have you ever been around a person who knows just the way to fix your entire life? A person who says that all you need to do is go to the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and have just the right kind of smoothie every morning and make sure that you cut out all bad energy while also journaling two times a day?

I'm sorry, maybe that works for Sir Mentally Healthy, but it doesn't address the core principles of how you're even supposed to get started with all that.

Someone who's been there should know how to break down whatever they're teaching into core principles. Mental health advice doesn't do that. Mental health advice comes across as a esoteric lecture and floats right over the head.

Mental health guidance, on the other hand, is offered up to be accepted by whomever needs it.

Guidance is gentle and obvious. Advice is harsh and needlessly complicated.

In Conclusion: Mental Health Advice / Mental Health Guidance

Now you know the difference between mental health advice and mental health guidance.

It's up to you to choose what's better for you.

If I've done my job, I've hopefully opened your mind to the possibility that you know a whole lot more than you think.

There were times that I may have ventured into advice mode here, and I'll probably do it again. I'm not perfect, and I make mistakes.

But at the end of the day, I want what's best for you.

I've known my fair share of emotional pain, and I want as many people as possible to avoid what I've been through.

Stick to the guidance track in life, and you'll be alright