I have a mental health problem. Should I start talking about it?
There are no hard and fast rules for talking about your own mental health. You should never feel under pressure to tell people that you have a mental health problem if you don’t want to. But sometimes having the courage to speak out can help you feel better in yourself, and more accepted by others.
You may sometimes meet with a negative reaction from people. But sometimes being honest about your mental health can make you feel better, despite people's reactions - because it means you don’t have to keep things hidden any more.
If you feel ready to talk about your mental health problem, here are a few points to help you out...
I think I have a mental health problem: tips on talking
- Be prepared: Think about the different reactions, positive and negative, that the person might have so you’re prepared. The person will be thinking about their perception of mental illness, you as a person and how the two fit together.
- Choose a good time: Choose a time and place when you feel comfortable and ready to talk.
- Be ready for lots of questions...or none: The person you are talking might have lots of questions or need further formation to help them understand. Or they might feel uncomfortable and try to move the conversation on – if this happens it’s still helpful that the first step has been taken.
- An initial reaction might not last: The person might initially react in a way that’s not helpful – maybe changing the subject, or responding with unhelpful advice or clichés rather than listening. But give them time - it might be the first time they've ever had a conversation about mental health.
- Have some information ready: Sometimes people find it easier to find out more in their own time – why not have one of our leaflets to hand?
- Keep it light: We know that sometimes people are afraid to talk about mental health because they feel they don’t know what to say or how to help. So keeping the conversation light will help make you both feel relaxed.
- Courage is contagious: Often once mental health is out in the open people want to talk. Don’t be surprised if your honesty encourages other people to talk about their own experiences.
Personal stories: talking about my mental health
"I could no longer hide from James and had to tell him everything. It was one of the hardest conversations I have had in my entire life. I had already convinced myself that James wouldn’t understand and that he would want to leave me once he found out. As soon as I told him I felt a big relief that I was free of the lie I was living."
Heather blogs about telling her boyfriend about her depression.
People have a fear of the unknown and some communities still are fearful of mental health and the embarrassment it can cause within their community. I can relate to this as having suffered with recurring depression and psychosis, I have fought for my family to acknowledge the fact my condition exists and also is nothing to hide.
A Time to Change blogger writes about attitudes toward mental health in their community.
Not to be discouraged I publicly disclosed at a major lecture on services users working in services to a room full of students and professional colleagues in 2009. This led to invitations to lecture to mental health nursing students, social work students, CBT trainees, and eventually to psychiatrists through our Post Graduate Medical School.
Mark blogs about when to open up about your mental illness.
I had planned in my mind to tell my two closest friends at the time. One who had been my best friend at sixth form and another who was a close friend and also a colleague from where I was currently working part time.
Beth blogs about how to talk to your friends.
Video: my mental health
It's time to talk - and that's exactly these people are doing. Watch comedienne Rebecca Front, boxing icon Frank Bruno, Eastenders actor Derek Martin, author and political aide Alastair Campbell and real life people discuss their experiences of talking about mental health.