Opening up to a loved one about your mental health can be empowering. It’s an opportunity to build a strong support system and foster deeper connections in your relationships. But talking about mental health can be difficult, especially if you’ve never opened up about it before.
How can you initiate conversations about mental health without feeling guilty or awkward? It might feel uncomfortable at first. The key is to make sure you are taking your loved one’s perspective into consideration. Your significant other or loved one is not your therapist, but they can be an important part of your mental health support system.
Try these tips when talking about mental health
If it’s your first time opening up about your mental health with a loved one, do a quick pulse check with yourself to prepare for a healthier and more productive conversation. Here are some tips to keep in mind when initiating the conversation:
1. Ask yourself: Are you close or comfortable enough with this person to be vulnerable with them? Is this person comfortable with my vulnerability? Not everyone will know how to properly respond or talk about mental health.
2. Write your feelings down first to organize your thoughts and gain a better perspective on the issue.
3. Set the tone for the conversation. Emphasize how important this person is in your life and that you want to be transparent with them.
4. Avoid emotional or trauma dumping, which is excessive sharing of issues or trauma with someone who does not have the capacity to process it. You want the other person to leave the conversation with more awareness, rather than feeling overwhelmed.
5. Keep it simple and avoid bringing up multiple issues at once. Not everyone has the knowledge and compassion necessary to process the nuances of mental health.
6. Don’t feel pressured or obligated to tell them anything you’re not comfortable talking about yet.
7. Use “I” statements to help reduce feelings of blame or accusation. It helps you get your point across without causing the listener to feel like they are being blamed for anything.
8. Use examples. When explaining mental health conditions or symptoms, provide specific instances to help them understand what it’s like. For example, “Things I do every day, even something simple like washing the dishes, is exponentially harder when my symptoms are more serious.”
9. Have an open mindset to the listener’s responses. Conversations are two-sided so it’s important to also listen to the other person. You can’t control the way other people react, but you can control the way you respond and speak.
10. Thank them for their time. Let them know how appreciative you are for them taking the time to listen.
Opening up to professional about your mental health
If you find it difficult talking about mental health with the people close to you, share your story with a mental health provider instead. Experienced mental health providers understand the complexities of mental health and can help you find actionable solutions. At Ahead, our providers are ready and available to listen to your concerns. They can help you manage your mental health condition and build a strong support system.
The benefits of mental health conversations
Talking about mental health in your relationships is an exciting and courageous step. Having these types of conversations can help your loved ones understand the specifics of your symptoms or feelings, or ease their concerns by making them more aware of what’s going on in your life.
Having mental health conversations with people you trust can also help you in other areas of life. For example, opening up about your mental health with those closest to you can be valuable practice for times you may need to ask for special accommodations at work or school.
Start opening up about your mental health with your loved ones to help you build a strong support system – because no one should deal with their mental health struggles alone.