Unfortunately, confusion and stigma surrounding mental health can make telling loved ones about your mental health condition even more difficult. However, confiding in your support system, including your closest friends and family, is often essential for emotional and mental well-being. Talking to someone sympathetic can reduce your stress levels and improve your mood. Loved ones can also provide concrete support, like help finding treatment or getting to and from appointments. To help, we’ve rounded up eight tips to help you decide who, how and what to talk about.
Share When You’re Ready
When or if you decide to tell friends and family about your mental illness, be sure to do so when you are ready. Don’t feel forced to share before you feel comfortable. Your feelings are your priority. You can even practice with a therapist and discuss potential issues or questions that may arise. It is also important to choose a time when you feel well enough to articulate and translate your thoughts in the best way possible.
Telling Others About Your Mental Illness: Knowing Who to Trust
You are not obligated to tell anyone about your mental illness diagnosis. This is your mental illness, so you decide who gets to know and who doesn’t. If you’re unsure about whether to tell other people, try creating a list of pros and cons. Consider the following questions when determining who you should talk to:
- Do I feel emotionally safe with this person?
- Can I trust this person?
- Are they judgmental?
- Would they be willing to learn about my mental illness?
- Will they be capable of offering emotional support?
Jot Down What You Want to Say
It may be difficult to remember everything you want to say, or it may be hard to put what you want to say into words. It can be helpful to jot down some notes before your conversation with your loved ones. Notes can help you organize your thoughts and make sure are communicating in the best way possible.
Tell as Much or as Little as You Want
Decide in advance what parts of your diagnosis you’ll discuss and what parts you won’t. You can share as much or as little information as you want. So, if you aren’t comfortable sharing every detail, don’t. Only share what you are comfortable discussing. It is perfectly understandable to answer a question with, “I’d rather not talk about that right now.”
Tell the Whole Truth About Your Mental Illness
Due to the stigma surrounding mental health, it may be tempting to downplay your diagnosis. Sugarcoating the seriousness of your mental health condition can lead to problems down the road. Not disclosing the whole truth about your mental health can set any relationship up for failure. Contrarily, telling them truth can strengthen your bond.
Prepare for Different Kinds of Reactions
Sharing about your mental illness can be difficult for you and your loved ones. Unfortunately, not everyone will have a positive reaction. For some, this news can be difficult to hear, understand or accept. They may need time to process. It is important to be prepared for all kinds of reactions such as sadness, shock, or denial. Some people may not even know how to respond. Make a plan for how you will respond to different outcomes so you can feel prepared to handle different reactions if they occur.
Provide Information About Your Mental Illness
There is a lot of misinformation about mental illness. In order to break down the stigma, do your research and provide as much information as possible. Print out some basic information to help educate others about what you are going through.
Let Them Know How They Can Support You
Your loved ones may feel like it is their responsibility to “fix” you. They may try to help you feel better in ways that they think are helpful, even when they’re not really helpful at all. Even when loved ones want to help, they often don’t know how. Give friends and family a better chance to help by asking directly for specific types of help. And, set boundaries. Be clear with people about when you want their advice and when you just want them to listen.