One in five adults suffer from a mental health illness within any given year. If you are one of those individuals, this can be a scary and overwhelming time. You may have many racing thoughts: What does this mean? What will happen next? Will I need medication? How will I tell my loved ones?
Because there is still stigma attached to mental health, talking to your friends and family about your how you are feeling may not be easy. It is normal to worry about how they will react, speculate what they will say, or wonder if they will view you differently. However, having this conversation sooner rather than later is essential to your mental and emotional well-being.
Your mental health is a serious issue, so it is best to do some planning before having this important conversation.
- Let your loved ones know you have something important you would like to share with them and set some time aside for when you can talk without any interruptions or distractions.
- Decide what you would like to say ahead of time. While there is no need to prepare a speech, writing down some key points will help ensure that you are able to properly get your message across.
- If you are feeling very anxious about talking to your loved ones, try some role playing. Practice this conversation a few times until you feel more at ease.
- While you don’t know how your loved ones will react, it is good to prepare for different kinds of reactions ⎼ sadness, shock, denial, acceptance. Know that hearing this news is difficult for your loved ones and they may not know how to react. Give them time to process the information you have just given to them.
- There is a lot of misinformation about mental illness, so your loved one may not be educated on the subject. It is best for you to do some research and print out some basic information that can help them better understand what you are going through.
Everyone may not have a positive reaction to you discussing your mental health. That is their issue, not yours. Opening up takes courage and you should be commended for speaking up about your struggles and making your health a priority.
If you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by positive and supportive people who want to help you get better, be sure to let them know what you need from them. To help, some may become “helicopter parents”, others may leave you alone because they believe you need your space. While your loved ones mean well: only you know what you need, so be sure to make that clear. Attending therapy sessions together can also help strengthen your bond and help them understand how to better aide you.
Talking to your loved ones about your mental health problems can feel like a weight has lifted off your shoulders. You will no longer need to hide your mental health. And now you have people around you to care and support you through this journey to a healthier, happier you.