How to Tell Someone You Have a Mental Illness

Why is it that sometimes the people we love and care for the most are the hardest to open up to about personal hardships? Maybe we don’t want them to worry. Maybe we value their opinion so highly we’re scared of getting a negative reaction. Or maybe we just can’t find the right words to explain it. But when it comes to your mental health… it may be one of the most beneficial things you can do.

According to a survey by Time to Change, approximately 60 percent of people dealing with mental health problems waited over a year to tell people closest to them. However, 73 percent of people also reported that once they finally did open up, these people were more supportive than any other group including employers, colleagues, teachers, GPs and online support networks. In saying that, it can still be quite daunting to talk to a loved one about your mental health. There are, however, some tips you can implement to make this process a little easier.

Decide what you want to share: Just because you’ve decided to open up to someone about your mental health, doesn’t mean you are under an obligation to tell him or her everything. You are allowed to disclose as much or as little about your experience as you feel comfortable with — and don’t be afraid to set personal boundaries around certain topics (unless you are going to cause harm to yourself or to someone else).

Prepare and practice: Practicing when, where, with whom and what you are going to say before you actually say it will make it a lot easier to implement. Role-playing can be helpful in addressing similar situations in reality, so it may be useful to rehearse what you are going to say. Choosing a time and place that is most convenient and comfortable for both you and the person whom you are speaking to can also help to ease the anxiety around the conversation itself.

Provide them with resources: The person you are confiding in may or may not know about the mental health problem you are dealing with. It may therefore be useful to have some information available to pass on to them or resources you can refer them to.


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Be prepared for a variety of responses: Some people may burst into tears; some people may deny your mental health problem exists. The truth is some people are just not familiar with or may not understand mental health problems. It can be difficult to work up the courage to talk to someone and it can often be disheartening if they have a hurtful response. A lot of the time they may need some time and resources to fully comprehend what you have told them. However, if their response is still unsupportive, it is important to remember it is their issue and not yours. Commend yourself for being brave enough to speak out about your mental health and don’t let it affect the way you see yourself. It may also be worth seeking out a support group in your area. These can be great places to meet others under similar circumstances in a safe, non-judgmental and supportive environment.

Tell them how they can support you: It is important you keep in mind that the person you’ve told may have their own take on how to best help. Some may think it’s better to give you some space, while others may check up on you constantly throughout the day. By making it clear what you would like them to do to support you and what behaviors or comments are unhelpful, they are able to bypass the guess work and in turn you will feel a lot more comfortable and supported throughout your recovery process.

Follow this journey on Mind Intertwined.

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