How to Have Mental Health Conversations
Job : February 17, 2022 |
Author: Abbie Cochrane |
Reading time: 5 minutes
Talking about mental health can be scary and difficult, but reaching out to people who care about you can be the starting point to help you better understand the fine print of what you’re going through. Sometimes it can seem impossible to know where to start when talking about mental health, so here are some tips to help you get an idea of how you want to lead the conversation depending on who you’re talking to.
Three conversations about mental health
With your parents or guardians
Talking to your parents or your caregiver can be a stressful conversation. You may wonder if they will take you seriously or be disappointed. They may be part of your mental health issues. You can tell them that even though you hear what they say about your sanity, dismissing it doesn’t make it any less real.
Write a letter or text if you’re not comfortable with a face-to-face conversation. Be sure to research your symptoms or condition online and give them some information so they can get an idea of what you’re going through. If you decide to have a face-to-face conversation, make sure you are in a safe space. You can also write a script with what you are going to say and practice to feel more comfortable.
If you’re worried about how they’re going to react, whether they’re sad or disappointed, express your feelings about it ahead of time and hope this will help them respond better to you. If you think they’ll be angry or won’t believe you, know that they most likely have preconceptions about mental health or may not know how to deal with it. Be sure to speak for yourself. If they still don’t understand, it might be time to ask another trusted adult for help.
If you are experiencing any form of abuse or neglect, or if you are unsure whether you are a victim of abuse or neglect, please visit Child Abuse Helpline to determine how to ask for help.
With your friends
Again, find a place where you would be comfortable broaching the subject. Do you want the environment to be loud or quiet? Crowded or empty? Do you want to do an activity together or just sit down and talk? It might be a little awkward to talk about, but a good friend will love you and support you no matter what. If they don’t react the way you hoped, you can go down similar paths to dealing with parents who may not fully understand where you’re coming from. Tell them exactly what you’re going through and maybe give them some ideas of what they could do to help you feel more secure as you move forward.
What about a friend who is part of the problem? You can tell them how you feel and give them suggestions on how they can change their behavior to help you feel safe and comfortable in order to stay friends, or you can give them the boot. Some people aren’t worth keeping in exchange for your sanity.
With your doctor or therapist
Think about what it means to see a doctor when it comes to mental health. What symptoms are you experiencing? Pre-existing health conditions? Do you plan to harm yourself or end your life? If you answered yes to this last question, see a doctor, therapist or other healthcare professional immediately. Be sure to let your doctor or therapist know about anything you’re going through in terms of mental health. Answer all follow-up questions honestly. Doctors can help you get medication if needed, refer you to a specialist or counselor, recommend lifestyle changes, schedule follow-up appointments to monitor you. For more on what to discuss with your doctor regarding mental health, see this item.
Therapists or counselors can help you manage your mental health. That doesn’t mean they can “fix” you. Talk to them about how you feel, your relationships, what’s bothering you right now, what kept you up at night last night, your past, etc. Bring up feelings that may be difficult to put into words.
It is important to know if the therapist you are working with is the right one for you. So before you fully open up, make sure you feel comfortable and trust them completely. Some questions to ask yourself when finding a therapist are whether you feel heard and respected by them, were they active or passive in conversation, do you feel better or worse during the session, what is the goal or outcome you hope to achieve through therapy, do you feel safe and comfortable with them? These are some of the questions you should consider when selecting a therapist to talk to about mental health. For a more in-depth look at what to look for in your therapist, read this item.
There will never be a “right time” to talk about your mental health, and studies have shown that not only can it be helpful and reduce stress, but it can also put you on the fast track to better managing your health. mental health and get the help you need.
If you or someone you know needs to speak with a counselor, contact the Office of Counseling and Psychology Services at Southern Utah University to schedule an appointment. CAPS is staffed with licensed mental health professionals, including psychologists, social workers and mental health counsellors. The CAPS team offers individual counseling, couple counseling, group counseling, workshops and biofeedback. Regular services are confidential and free for SUU students.