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How to open up to someone about your mental health

Talking about mental health can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in mental-health


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Taking the first step towards talking about your mental health can be difficult. Thinking about who you want to talk to and how you want to start the conversation can make it easier to open up to someone about how you've been feeling.

What you can do before talking to someone

It can take a lot of courage to take the first step and open up to someone. Here's how you can prepare for the conversation:

Think about what you want to say

Take some time to think about what you want to tell them. Writing down your thoughts can help you to make sense of them and to prepare for the conversation. You can bring these notes with you, or hand them over to the other person to read before you start to discuss what's been happening. If you feel overwhelmed, you don't have to go through it all at once. Just sharing some of what you've been feeling is a great first step, and you can continue to talk over the next few days or weeks as you open up more. 

Choose the right person

Finding someone to talk about such a personal topic can be difficult. It’s important that you choose someone you know you can trust, and who won’t judge you. Have a think about someone who has been there for you in the past. It might be a parent, a GP, youth worker, teacher, friend, brother or sister. Or perhaps you might find it easier to speak to someone you don’t know very well at all. Whoever you talk to, it’s important that you’re not put off if it’s not a great experience. Don’t be put off by one bad experience, and keep talking until you get the support that you deserve.

If you're not ready to talk to someone you know, SpunOut.ie’s text message support service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We provide in-the-moment anonymous support and problem solving when you need it most. Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer.

Choose the right time

You might always be tempted to put something off because it’s ‘not the right time’, but realistically there may not ever be a perfect time. It might help to try to talk to someone at a time when they’re not busy and you won’t be interrupted.

Send them a text if you’re not ready to speak to them face to face

If you are finding it too difficult to speak face to face, send them a text message or private message on Facebook to start off the conversation. You could say something like “I need to talk to you about something that’s been bothering me for a while now. I’m a little nervous talking about it so that’s why I texted you. I’m finding things difficult at the moment.”

It can be a good idea to follow-up your text conversation with a face-to-face conversation.

Confidentiality

It’s important that you understand that if you tell a friend, family member or even a mental health professional that you are suicidal or at risk of hurting yourself that they may not be able to keep that between the two of you. Keeping you safe is of the utmost importance and to do that it may be necessary to break your confidentiality.

How to start the conversation

It may be a little awkward at first, as most people aren’t all that comfortable with talking about their mental health. But keep going with the conversation and you should start to relax after a few minutes.

Let them know you have something important to tell them

Start off by telling them that you want to talk to them about something important. Let them know that you are worried about how you have been feeling and that it has been concerning you for a while.

Explain how it impacts on you

Tell them the ways it has impacted on your daily life. You may have noticed changes in your appetite or in your sleeping patterns for example. Or maybe you are spending more time in your room alone and avoiding people. You may have noticed that your mood is lower than usual or that you are much sadder than usual.

Tell them how they can help

Let them know of the ways that they can help you. Maybe they can make more time for you, or maybe you want them to accompany you to a doctor or counsellor for some support. If you're not sure how they can help right now, that's okay. Just keep this in mind and let them know if you think of something.

Be ready for questions

Your friend or family member might have lots of questions for you. They might want to know how long things have been like this, or what they can do to help. Be prepared for this, and let them know if you're feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break.

Be patient with them

You have taken the first step towards getting the help you need, and that's a great achievement. It might take time for your friend or family member to come to terms with what you've told them, so try to have patience with them. Let them know you understand this might shock or upset them, but that you came to them because you need their support.

What if they react badly?

Mental health is often very misunderstood and this can often cause people to have unhelpful responses. This is not ideal, and does not in any way reflect on you. Try not to get discouraged and if you don’t get the reaction that you want - keep trying.

If you have spoken to a friend or family member and they have reacted badly, it may be worth giving them some time to think about what you’ve told them, as it may have come as a shock. You could also direct them to information online to help them understand.

It’s important that you don’t let this put you off talking about your mental health, as just because one person might have reacted badly does not mean everyone will have the same reaction.

Getting professional help

Reaching out to a professional can help you find the support you need. Consider talking to your GP about your mental health and ask about counselling services in your area.

Jigsaw is a free counselling service for young people aged 12-25 years of age, and has centres around the country. 

Turn2Me.ie offer free online counselling to young people age 12-17 and to adults over 18. They also offer online support groups for young people and adults. Find out more about Turn2Me.ie.

Traveller Counselling Service

If you are a young Traveller and would like to speak to a counsellor who specifically works with the Travelling Community, the Traveller Counselling Service can support you. The service works from a culturally inclusive framework which respects Traveller culture, identity, values and norms. They provide Traveller culture centred counselling and psychotherapy. They are a Dublin based service but offer counselling both in person and online.

Feeling overwhelmed by right now and need to talk?

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Published July 29th2016
Tags self harm mental health
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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