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How to talk to your loved one about your mental health

19 July 2021 Blog
Mental health
Seeking treatment for mental health is not easy to do explains psychologist Janja Bojanic.

It may be even more difficult to open up to your friends and family about your struggles and how you have been trying to manage your emotional wellbeing. 

Choosing to talk with your family, friends or other people in your life can be a big decision which can cause stress and uncertainty, however can also have some potential benefits especially support and reassurance from those important to you.

Why do people choose to keep their treatment a secret?

It is an unfortunate fact that  the stigma attached to mental health remains, and talking about having a diagnosis of a mental health illness is often difficult. 

For some people, being diagnosed with a mental health condition can be a shock, and may feel overwhelmed, embarrassed, and uncertain about how others may react to having a conversation about this. 

It is normal to worry about how others may respond to you opening up about your struggles. Not everyone will be ready to start this conversation, however it is important to acknowledge that opening up takes courage and you should be proud of yourself for prioritising your health and wellbeing. 

It is important to remember that the choice remains yours in relation to what and how much you want to share, you should not feel pressured to share what you are not comfortable sharing.   

What are the benefits of speaking up? 

Starting a conversation about your emotional wellbeing and mental health can have a lot of benefits, which can include; 

  • receiving support and reassurance from those that are important to you
  • it can feel liberating to be able to openly discuss your struggles, and not have to keep things “secret”
  • it may ease your loved ones concerns
  • it can help you sort out your own feelings and understand your situation better.

Things to consider when you broach the subject

Not everyone may be comfortable having conversations about mental health, and this may not be a type of conversation you have had with your loved ones before. 

It is important to remember that you don’t need to feel pressured or rushed to share you experience too soon, and everyone may not be ready or able to hear about your experience yet.  

So, here are a few things you might like to keep in mind when discussing your mental illness and the treatment you are receiving.

  • They may be overwhelmed, emotional or even not willing to participate in the conversation straight away. Alternatively, they may just not know what to say. Give them time.
  • Your loved one may have questions. It is up to you what and how much you share. It is however important to be honest about your feelings and what (if anything) you want/ need from them.
  • Choose a moment that allows you both to take the time you need to discuss the topic properly. Make sure you are in a place where you can both give each other your full attention and stay for a long period in comfort.
  • Talk through you situation in plain direct terms. Simply telling your story as you experience it is incredibly powerful.
  • Seek support to talk with your loved one if that is necessary
Janja Bojanic is a psychologist and Allied Health Manager at St John of God Richmond Hospital
Janja Bojanic - Psychologist and Allied Health Manager
Janja Bojanic is a psychologist and Allied Health Manager at St John of God Richmond Hospital. She has more than seven years’ experience as a psychologist.