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Mental Health

4 Tips for Talking About Your Mental Health for the First Time

Many people go through life never talking to anyone else about serious mental health issues, traumas, or diagnoses. In fact, in older generations, it was pretty much the norm to go your entire life without telling anyone. A person could experience a devastating loss, or cope with agonizing symptoms, and be expected to keep it a secret. In extreme cases, they might be sent away, never to see most or all of their loved ones again.

Things are a bit better now, to say the least, thanks to Gen Z and the social media phenomenon. It’s easier than ever to open up about what you’re going through, and the stigma isn’t half what it used to be. You could still become the target of gossip or deal with intolerance. But for the most part, people are kind, accepting, and willing to deeply listen. When you’re ready to talk, here are some tips on how to make it easier.

Talk to the Right People

Sharing details about your mental health with others is a really big step for most people. It isn’t easy to be vulnerable or trust the people around you with your deepest, darkest feelings and secrets. That’s why, when you start to open up, it’s important to choose the right folks to confide in. It’s important to pick people you trust to listen with empathy and who will validate your feelings without passing judgment.

If you’re already in treatment, it might be the right time to start opening up to friends and family. If you don’t have professional help yet, it may be time to seek out a therapist, psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health professional. Outpatient sessions may be enough to get you the help you need. Or you may need to spend some time in a more dedicated treatment space like a mental health rehab center.

Be Prepared for Some Frustration

When you talk about your mental health, there will always be some folks you wind up needing to educate. That might mean making sure your therapist truly understands your family history or explaining the specifics of your diagnosis to friends and family. It can become aggravating, sometimes, when it feels like the people around you just don’t understand. You may notice you have to repeat yourself a lot or clarify what you really mean.

For example, if you have certain mental health conditions, even the people you love most might minimize your symptoms. Anxious or histrionic behaviors, severe mood swings, compulsions, and other symptoms might be written off as behaviors you can control. Even people who are familiar with your diagnosis might sometimes forget that you can’t just choose to stop having a mental illness. A huge part of opening up about your mental health is learning to self-advocate.

Start Small and Set Boundaries

There’s no rule that says you have to open up about everything, to everyone, all at once. In fact, many people benefit from setting clear boundaries about what, when, and with whom they’ll share details about their mental health. For people who’ve experienced abuse or trauma, it’s important to regain control over your own thoughts and actions. If something doesn’t feel right, you never need to share with that person, or at that time.

But it’s not always that simple. Friends and family may still ask prying questions, and you may not have much practice at saying no in general. They may assume that everything you’ve been through is their business and be offended if you’re selective about what you share. It can take some practice to learn your own limits, and to define, establish, and reinforce boundaries. Self help books, therapists, and support groups can help if you’re not sure how to do this.

But Don’t Hold Back the Big Stuff

On the one hand, you never have to share anything you’re uncomfortable talking about until (and if) you decide you’re ready. On the other hand, it can feel good to just let all your feelings out. Know that it’s normal and acceptable to cry, shake, sob, etc., and try not to feel embarrassed about showing your emotions. In a controlled environment, it might even feel good to stomp around, throw soft objects, or punch a punching bag while you chat.

Regardless of whether you decide to share all your feelings or take a more measured approach, safety comes first. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harming others, communicate them to a mental health provider, crisis hotline, or emergency services. Without knowing what’s going on, your support network can’t help you overcome larger challenges. Your wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others around you, always come before everything else.

Patience and Acceptance

In some cases, certain people in your life will be very accustomed to a certain fixed idea of who you are. Sharing details of your mental health struggles might expose them to a different version of you that they’re not ready to accept. As with other big reveals, like coming out of the closet, there may be folks who don’t understand or accept what you say. It’s important not to judge yourself, rush to convince them or force relationships you realize no longer work.

Instead, lean into the relationships that do feel supportive and redeeming at this stage of your journey. You may discover that certain people surprise you and may share past experiences similar to yours. Opening up about your mental health could be a powerful opportunity to forge new connections and strengthen old friendships. Stay open to finding common ground and redefining yourself and your community

Azura Everhart

Hey, I am Azura Everhart a digital marketer with more than 5+ years of experience. I specialize in leveraging online platforms and strategies to drive business growth and engagement.

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