How to talk to someone about your mental health

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post for Mental Health Month about talking to someone about their mental health. This post is about talking about your own mental health. Both of these topics can be incredibly difficult—but both are incredibly important.

So here are some ideas to get you started:

Be brave.

This is a topic that’s worth talking about. It matters. You matter. You can bring this up.

Try to adjust expectations.

One of the main principles of Buddhism is that attachment—including attachment to expectations—is what causes us suffering LINK. I think this is an important principle to remember when talking about your mental health with someone, especially for the first time. When we’re brave enough to finally bring the topic up, we’re likely to do it with the hope or expectation that the other person will respond in a certain way—and if/when they don’t, it can be difficult and painful. Instead, try to go into the conversation with the following:

Be open to however the person responds. We all have very personal, individualized experiences with mental health. When you bring up your experience, some people may be able to immediately relate, and know exactly how to respond. But others simply won’t. Some won’t be able to understand or relate at all, in fact. Try to go in without expectations for a certain response, and try to be open to however the person does respond to you.

If you are hoping for something specific from this individual by having this conversation, try communicating that directly in the conversation. Are you sharing because you just need an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on? Try, “I just need someone to listen right now.” Are you sharing because you’d like help connecting with resources? Try, “I don’t know what to do about this. Can you help me get help?”

Use good communication skills.

  1. Be open to this being a two-way conversation (not just a monologue).

  2. Try using “I feel” statements.

  3. Avoid accusations. If you do need to talk to this individual about something they did that you found inappropriate, try sticking to the facts. It can be helpful to describe things you’ve directly observed, then use “I feel” statements to describe how you felt about them.

Keep practicing.

These can be awkward conversations, but just jump in and do it. When we keep talking, it gets a little easier every time for all of us—and when you’re open about your own mental health, it’s easier for others to talk about mental health, too. The topic becomes more normal, too. So keep at it.

Mental health can be difficult for all of us to talk about. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t though—it means the opposite. It means we need to keep doing it more.

Please add any thoughts on the topic below!

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