Talk about it

Woman on couch looking at phone

Talk about it

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), talking about how you feel can lower your levels of stress and improve your mood. Talking about your mental health can be scary, but doing so can help you feel supported and open the door to getting better.

Since this conversation can be intimidating, there are a few tips you can follow to make sure it’s productive.

When should I tell someone?

Telling someone about your mental health is a personal decision, and you should do it when you feel comfortable. If you are feeling unwell, try to tell someone you trust and who will support you when you need it.

If you think someone may be resistant to listening or who may not know a lot about mental illness, you can tell them during a period when you’re feeling well. This way, you can explain in a calm environment and allow time for this person to adjust and understand what you may need if/when your symptoms return.

What do I say?

Choose a method you are comfortable with to start. If a face-to-face conversation is too intimidating, you can start with a text, phone call or video chat. You can gauge which way is best to open this dialogue with the person you have decided to talk to.

When you’re ready to start talking, NAMI suggests 3 different ways to explain:

  • Process talk. This is a way to prepare the person you’re talking to for an important conversation. You can say something like:
    • “Something important is going on in my life and I need to talk to someone about it. I chose you because I trust you to listen and understand. I’m hoping I’ll feel better after getting this off my chest.”
  • Give concrete examples. Different people may perceive your situation in different ways. If you give specific examples of how you’re feeling and how it’s affecting you, they can better understand. You can say something like:
    • “I am only sleeping a few hours each night, and it’s starting to affect my day-to-day life. I think something is wrong.”
  • Suggest ways they can support you. Explaining what you need will help the person you’re talking to support you in the best way they can. You can say something like:
    • “I’ve talked to my doctor about my depression, and I know I’m getting worse when I stop cleaning up after myself around the house. Will you help me tidy up?”
    • “I know I need help, but I usually talk myself out of making a phone call. Will you sit with me while I call a professional?”

Remember, your mental health is your lived experience, and you get to decide who knows about your situation and when. Talking about your experiences, symptoms and coping mechanisms can help the people who love you better support you and be a person to lean on when you need it.