Your mental health can make a big impact on your relationships, both personal and professional, but it can make an even bigger impact if the people in your life do not know about it. You might cancel plans at the last minute, be more distant, avoid phone calls, show up late, or miss deadlines. It can vary for everyone exactly how their mental health impacts their behavior, but without explaining to those around you that you are struggling, your relationships with them can also struggle. Many people may be hesitant to talk to others about their mental health because of stigmas, but doing so can help them understand what you are going through a little better. It is okay not to want to talk to people about it because it makes you feel vulnerable, but you may find that you feel a little better after doing so. In this article, we have put together some tips for talking about your mental health.
When should I talk to someone about my mental health?
If you need to talk to someone in your life about your mental health when you are not doing well, start with one of the most supportive people in your life. Once you talk to them, they can help you talk to others about it. While talking to people about it when you are feeling okay is preferable, that is not always doable, so you should aim to have someone supportive with you and talk to someone in a calm and comfortable environment.
Everyone discloses their mental health for different reasons, depending on who they are talking to. You might decide to tell a friend or loved one because they are worried about you. You might tell your boss because you feel it is affecting your work or you want to receive some accommodations they offer. Everyone has different reasons for telling or not telling someone in their lives about their mental health issues, so you just need to decide that it feels right.
Telling people about your struggles with mental health should not be forced. It is a personal decision, so you should only tell them when you are ready. These tips can help you start talking about your mental health on your terms.
Mental Health Talking Tips
1. Prepare in Advance
It can be hard to get the words out sometimes about your mental health, so take the time in advance to prepare for it. You can write down some notes on what you want to discuss to give you guidelines for your conversation.
2. Pick the Communication Mode You’re Comfortable With
While having these types of conversations in person is ideal, sometimes the thought of having to see the face of the person you are talking to can trigger a panic attack or make you avoid the conversation for longer. Instead, if you need to have this conversation over the phone, do it over the phone. If absolutely necessary, you can write it all out in a letter or even through a text message, though that can make the conversation a little harder to have.
3. Start with a Process Talk
Process talk is essentially talking about talking. You can prepare them for the conversation by using process talk. You can try some of these to get started:
- “I have something important to talk to you about, but I’m not sure how to talk about it. I just need you to be patient and listen.”
- “I think I need to talk to you about something going on in my life, but I’m embarrassed about it, so please just listen and don’t laugh it off.”
- “I need to talk to you about what is going on with me, but I’m not quite ready yet. Can you be patient until I’m ready?”
4. Decide What to Share
You do not have to share everything. As part of your preparations, decide what you do and do not want to share about what is going on with you. Stick by this decision and if someone asks something you are not ready to answer, just tell them you would rather not talk about that now.
5. Set Boundaries
When talking to someone about your mental health, set clear boundaries. Make sure they know that you want them to share advice or just listen to what you are saying. Since there are stigmas about mental health, whoever you talk to will have their own thoughts on the matter, so be patient when talking to them.
6. Share How They Can Support You
You will need different levels of support from different people, so you have an idea of what type of support they can give you when you talk to them. At work, this might mean lessening some of the pressure on you. With friends, this could mean not taking it personally if you cancel plans. This is something to consider when you prepare to talk to them. They will want to help you.
7. Use Your Calming Techniques Before You Talk
Whether it is listening to music, lighting candles, using an anxiety relief app, fidgeting with a game, or taking a few deep breaths, do whatever helps center you before your talk. That will make it easier to get through it. If you need to take a break to calm yourself during the talk, do it.