For many of us, our mental health can feel like a hugely personal issue to talk about, or admit to. Which is why it can be so hard sometimes to admit that we’re struggling. Roughly one in five Australian’s live with a mental health condition – that’s huge! – and many more experience poor mental health at some point during their life.
In recent years, campaigns like R U OK Day have helped shed light on the importance of taking care of our mental health, and noticing it in those around us, and it’s helped reduce the stigma around mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
It can be hard to figure out the right way to disclose your mental health condition to the people around you, or even to disclose it at all. But if you’re thinking of talking to a family member, friend or colleague about your mental health, here are some steps to try and make the process easier and less stressful.
Gauge your audience
If it is a family member or friend that you are opening up to, you probably already have somewhat of an idea of how they perceive and respond to the topic of mental illness. How do they speak about mental health? How do they react to news stories about mental health? Understanding how they may respond to the conversation ahead of time will help you to emotionally prepare, and help you to be prepared for various responses.
Be specific (where you can)
When trying to convey the importance of the conversation, try being direct in talking about your experiences. Use ‘I’ statements and be specific in explaining how your mental illness is impacting your life. The more descriptive you are, the easier it will be for your loved one to understand how serious the issue is.
Go for it when the time is right
Talking about your mental health doesn’t need to be scary. It can be a very casual conversation, perhaps had over coffee or during a walk. Try to pick a day when you are feeling relatively upbeat or calm, and choose a location that will put you at ease. Perhaps there is a favourite café you always go to, or a nice spot by the ocean where you like to walk.
Take care of yourself
By having a conversation about your mental health, you can begin to make changes that positively impact you. Ultimately, the goal is to provide you with more support and alleviate anxiety where possible, and not to cause you more distress. It can be a delicate process, but it may also lead to a greater feeling of satisfaction within your life. At the end of the day, you need to make the move that is best for you and your health.