To the fellow patient who said I didn’t look like I needed to be in the hospital

umich psych2You didn’t know me, and I didn’t know you. But you took the time to talk to me. You took the time to say out of the blue, “You don’t look like you need to be here.”

It caught me off guard. I was sitting on the public computer nervously emailing my professors about being in the hospital when you said this. I could barely think of a response. So when you then asked accusingly, “Why are you here?” I timidly replied, “My brain…”

So, tell me. What is a patient on the psych ward supposed to look like? And why can’t it look like me? Why can’t it look like a 22-year-old college student dressed in a Micky Mouse sweatshirt?

Why must we continue to enforce this stereotypical image of what a mental health patient looks like? Better yet, why are you stereotyping yourself? We’re both patients on the same ward.

I deserve to be here getting help the same as everyone else on the ward. Yet, your comment made me feel like I didn’t belong, like I wasn’t bad enough to deserve the help.
And amazingly enough, you weren’t the first to say this to me. Without fail every time I am on a behavioral health unit at least one person makes some form of this comment to me. “You don’t look like you need to be here.” “What’s wrong with you? You seem fine.” “You look like you should be a nurse, not a patient.”

Well let me tell you this: mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes. You can’t see it from the way someone looks. And words have the power to affect others. Now I have to work with the nagging thoughts that keep coming up that maybe I don’t deserve the help.

But. I. Do.

We all deserve help, no matter how severe or mild our mental illnesses are. We all deserve help, no matter what we look like, our age, or anything else.



  1. The nagging thoughts are the hardest to work through. I can relate to this situation and know it’s a real challenge. But you are right, we do deserve the help and no one should say or do anything to take that right away from us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fucking hell (excuse the french, I find swearing to be very expressive), I was asked the exact same thing when I was experiencing the most intense, deep and sudden depression and suicidal ideation of my life. I asked the patient “what do you mean” and she said “you look so young”. Oh, so now because I’m YOUNG I can’t experience a mental illness? Fortunately there was a nurse around when this happened and she gently reminded the other patient not to ask about diagnoses, so I guess it was something that had happened before. I wouldn’t have even minded telling her, if she’d asked a little differently. I’m so glad someone else experienced something similar x

    Liked by 1 person

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