Opening Up About Your Mental Health Struggles - How to Talk to Friends & Family
It can be hard to know how to open up to your friends and family about your mental health struggles. You might feel like you're burdening them, or that they won't understand.
But talking openly and honestly about your mental health is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. It can help you feel more connected to the people around you, and it can also help them better understand and support you.
If you're not sure how to start the conversation, we've got some tips for you. Keep reading for advice on how to talk to your friends and family about your mental health struggles.
Signs You Might Need to Have a Conversation About Mental Health Struggles
Not everyone with mental health struggles wants to talk about it. In fact, some people might not even realise they’re struggling. But there are a few signs you can look for that might mean it’s time to have a conversation about mental health struggles.
If you notice that you or your friend is having a tough time at school, work or home, for example, then it might cause a mental health struggle. If you or your friend is always cancelling plans or seems really down for no reason, that could also be a sign. If you or your friend is thinking or talking about suicide or self-harm, that’s an even bigger sign that help is needed.
No matter what the sign is, it’s always important to remember that you should never ignore your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. So listen to your intuition and have that conversation with your friend—they’ll be glad you did.
Knowing How to Start the Conversation
Talking openly about our mental health can be really tough. It's something that we often keep to ourselves, partly because we're worried about how others will react, and partly because we're not sure where to start.
But the truth is, it's not as difficult as we make it out to be. All it takes is a bit of courage and a lot of honesty. So don't be afraid to start the conversation with your friends and family. Here are a few tips on how to do it:
- Be honest and upfront
Don't try to sugar-coat things or make excuses. Just be honest and open about how you're feeling. This will help your friends and family understand what you're going through, and it will also make it easier for them to offer support.
- Use "I" statements
When talking about your mental health, use "I" statements rather than "you" statements. For example, instead of saying "You're making me so angry," say "I'm feeling really angry right now." This will help keep the conversation positive and constructive.
- Be patient and understanding
Your friends and family may not fully understand what you're going through, and that's okay. Be patient with them and give them time to learn more about mental health issues. And most importantly, remember that they're just trying to help.
Tips for Communicating Your Needs Effectively
It can be tough to open up about your mental health struggles to your friends and family. You may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or scared that they won't understand. But it's important to remember that they love and care for you, and they want to help.
Here are a few tips for communicating your needs effectively:
- Start by telling them that you love them and appreciate their support.
- Be honest and direct in your explanation of what you're going through.
- Let them know what you need from them, and ask for their help.
- Express your gratitude for their support once you've received it.
Questions to Ask Your Friends & Family for Support
When it comes to talking to your friends and family about mental health struggles, it's important to ask for what you need. Talking about tough topics can be difficult, but if you are prepared with clear questions and open-ended language, it can make for a more productive conversation.
First off, consider asking friends and family members to listen without judgement. Ask them if they are truly in a place where they can devote their full attention to the conversation without needing a response right away. Talk openly with them about how they can best support you in this period of difficulty. Do you need empathy? Would tangible gestures like sitting with you and engaging in meaningful activities be helpful?
Another question to ask is how they think the two of you can work together on this issue or challenge. Are there coping strategies they could recommend? Have they had any similar experiences that might offer helpful perspectives? Have they noticed any patterns or triggers in your behaviours? Ultimately, these conversations should be framed as two people coming together as partners looking to overcome something difficult together - not just one person burdening the other with their issues.
Accessing Professional Help if Necessary
Opening up and talking to friends and family is an important first step towards getting the support you need. However, it’s also important to remember that if your issues become too overwhelming to handle, you should consider reaching out to a professional for additional help.
It can be intimidating at first to open up about your mental health struggles with a therapist or psychiatrist —but these professionals are there to offer guidance and support. If it helps, try researching different types of therapy or talking therapies first so that you can feel prepared beforehand. You can also look for online counsellors if you're more comfortable with this option.
Regardless of how scared or overwhelmed you may feel, it’s important to remember that there is no shame in seeking professional help and that doing so is ultimately an act of self-care and love for yourself. Whether it's through exploring different treatments, seeking therapy or just having meaningful conversations with close ones - the more comfortable we learn to talk about our mental health struggles, the easier it will be for us all to seek and get the help we need when we need it most.
Caring for Yourself After the Conversation
It's important to remember that the conversation doesn't end with your friends and family. You may feel drained or emotionally exhausted afterwards, so it is important to take the necessary time to check in with yourself and focus on self-care. We know how vital self-care is, especially to young people who are just finding their feet. Do an activity that you find calming or soothing, such as yoga, gardening or sound healing. These are just some of the free activities in One Wear Freedom’s Student Sustainability Space - a wellness workshop designed to provide students with the tools + opportunities to slow down + live authentically. Stay mindful of what works best for you—make sure to do something that puts you at ease.
Make sure to give yourself plenty of affirmation after this conversation has occurred. Positive affirmations can help boost self-esteem and create mental clarity which will be beneficial for recovery from mental health struggles. Taking these steps will help you move forward with your journey towards recovery and wholeness.
So, what can you do if you find yourself struggling and don’t feel like you can talk to your friends or family? Talk to a professional. It can be really tough to open up about your mental health, but it’s a vital step in getting help. Professionals will be able to provide you with the support you need and connect you with resources that can help you get your life back on track. Remember, you are not alone.