Discussing Mental Illness
When you’re not feeling like yourself, the first step toward feeling better is finding a way to explain how you’re feeling to someone who can help.
It’s difficult to speak up, and even harder figuring out how to approach the conversation. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) one in five young adults are dealing with a mental illness, but as many as half are enduring this personal struggle in silence.
There’s no right person to talk to. What’s important is speaking to someone that you’re comfortable sharing your emotions with. Talking to people who you can rely on to be understanding and supportive early on will help you practice and gain confidence.
Friends are a great steppingstone on opening up, but the ultimate goal is to find someone who can lead you toward treatment. Perhaps these people could be a teacher, guidance counselor, religious leader, therapist or your primary doctor. The key is persistence, and to not give up until you find the right person who can help.
Once you feel comfortable enough to speak with someone, keep these tips in mind.
· Go at your own pace. Sharing emotions can be overwhelming, take it slow.
· Don’t downplay your feelings to make serious emotions seem lighter. This can make it harder to find someone who can really help. Communicate that you’re more than sad or anxious and that it’s affecting your everyday life.
· Don’t worry about messing up. If you feel yourself losing focus or oversharing, an easy go-to is, “I feel awful, and I don’t know what to do.”
Once you open up about your mental health, it’s important to set some boundaries for yourself. You don’t want your mental health to define you. It’s important to set personal boundaries of how much you’d like to share and discuss the issue with others. A key to this is also knowing your audience. This will help you stay in control of the conversation and avoid oversharing.
Building a team, or support system, allows you to rely on people in different ways. A best friend is a good listener, but a parent helps make tough decisions. A mental health professional is best for getting treatment. Above all, avoid sharing with people who make you feel worse. If you feel judged or worse after a conversation with someone, they probably aren’t the right person to continue to confide in.
Starting a conversation about your mental health can be very difficult. If you organize your emotions to at least convey them productively to a close confidant, it can help you find the right person to lead you toward improvement. The first step is opening up and letting others know that you need their help, and many are waiting to be that help.