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How to tell your loved ones about your mental health

Choosing to talk with your family, friends and other people in your life about your emotional wellbeing and mental health is a big decision. Clinical Psychologist Ian Smith explains why it is often a positive step to share your experience.

Why do people choose to keep their treatment a secret?

For some, the diagnosis of a mental illness may come as a shock. They could feel embarrassed or may fear the reactions their news will get from others.

Others may not be fully ready to accept their diagnosis, or feel unprepared to answer any questions that may arise.

St John of God Health Care mental health

What are the benefits of speaking up? 

Choosing to speak about your emotional wellbeing and mental health is a big decision and you should not feel pressured to speak out.

However, there are many benefits to your wellbeing from discussing your situation but telling your story could also have positive impacts on the wider community. These include:

  • the ability to ask for the support you actually want/need
  • reducing your stress about having to keep your emotional wellbeing a secret
  • being able to explain the situation and answer questions in your own words
  • being able to demystify the situation to yourself and your loved ones
  • being able to ease your loved ones concerns
  • reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Sometimes, simply saying something out loud can help you to sort out your own feelings and understand the situation better.

Things to consider when you broach the subject

As the topic of mental health is not discussed as openly as perhaps it should be, you and your loved one may not have ever been in a conversation like this before.

Again, your decision to share your emotional wellbeing with your loved ones is yours to make so don’t feel rushed or pressured into sharing your experience too soon.

It is important to make sure you are comfortable with sharing your feelings.

So, here are a few things you might like to keep in mind when discussing your mental illness and the treatment you are receiving.

  • They may be overwhelmed, emotional or even not willing to participate in the conversation straight away. Alternatively, they may just not know what to say. Give them time.
  • Your loved one may have questions. It is up to you what and how much you share. It is however important to be honest about your feelings and what (if anything) you want/ need from them.
  • Choose a moment that allows you both to take the time you need to discuss the topic properly. Make sure you are in a place where you can both give each other your full attention and stay for a long period in comfort.
  • Talk through you situation in plain direct terms. Simply telling your story as you experience it is incredibly powerful.
  • Seek support to talk with your loved one if that is necessary