It can be hard to talk about your mental health, particularly if you’re struggling. When you’re having emotional problems, the first step to feeling better is finding a way to talk about how you’re feeling. But for a lot of us, it can be hard to speak up, and even harder to know how to approach the conversation — who to talk to and what to say.
Talking about your mental health issues may not be easy but it’s a vital part of getting the help you need. There’s no right way or best way to talk about mental health issues, but having a plan can help make the process less overwhelming. Just acknowledging that you need help is a really powerful thing, but sometimes going from saying it to yourself to saying it to someone else is hard. Here are some things to help make the conversation more productive:
1) Start the Conversation
The best way to bring up the subject of your mental health is to treat it as something urgent and something important – because it is urgent and important! You might say:
“Hey, there’s something I’d like to talk with you about. It’s kind of important to me and I’m wondering if we can make some time to chat.”
2) Schedule a Time
If that moment isn’t convenient for one or both of you, make sure you schedule a time and lock it in. For example:
“I’m wondering if you have a few minutes at lunchtime for us to talk today.” OR “Is there a good time I might call you this evening?”
3) Don’t Give Up
You have taken a huge step is asking to talk to someone. Even if that moment doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. Keep in mind that just as others may not realize everything that’s going on with you, you also don’t know what may be on their minds at the moment.
If the person you first reach out to isn’t available, for whatever reason, try someone else. And keep in mind – especially if you’re really struggling – that help is ALWAYS available, even if you’re not facing a serious or suicidal crisis. Resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), or the Crisis Text Line (text TALK to 741-741) are available for anyone, and can connect you to help.
4) Talk Face to Face (or Ear to Ear)
Explain what it is you’ve been experiencing – changes in your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, sleep, energy and mood. You might tell them you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed, or like your usual coping strategies are barely working any more. You might also tell them that you’ve been “not feeling like your usual self,” or that you’re “having thoughts that are troubling to you.”
Be sure to identify any changes in your mental health that you’re aware of, so your friend can understand the full picture. Talk about not only the things affecting you, but how they are affecting you. For example, instead of saying, “Work has been really stressful because my boss does x, y, z…” try to identify how the stress at work has been impacting your mood, anxiety, sleep, temper or frustration tolerance, substance use, and so on.
It’s also helpful if you can look back and try to figure out how long the changes you’ve been experiencing have been going on. Did they happen gradually (over weeks to months), or more rapidly (hours to days)?
5) After the Conversation
Now that you’ve opened yourself up in such a brave, strong way about what you’re experiencing, you might be feeling a little nervous.
“What does this person think of me now?” “What if I’ve scared them away?” “Are they going to avoid me for now on?” It is completely normal to feel this way after being vulnerable.
Let them know how important the conversation was to you. “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me the other day. It really was important to me to let you know how I was feeling.”
Reaching back out like this gives the other person an opportunity to continue the dialogue with you going forward, and lets them know you see them as a safe place.
The bravest thing you can do is to talk about your feelings. Golden Valley Health Centers are here for you. Call or text 866.682.4842 to make an appointment with one our caring providers.
If you are in a state of distress, reaching out is the first step to safety. Click HERE to be taken to dedicated crisis services.
*Article adapted from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention