Starting the Conversation Around Your Mental Illness

Whether you’re young or old, single or married, still a student or long since graduated, mental illness is a difficult thing to live with. It can greatly disrupt your daily life and make it difficult to complete tasks, maintain relationships, or just feel like yourself.

Mental illness comes in many forms and affects millions of people. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that about 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffer from mental illness in a given year. Unfortunately, many people do not receive the proper treatment for their mental illness. This allows their condition to worsen which can cause severe consequences.

Being honest with yourself about your thoughts and feelings is a critical step in recovery. The next step is speaking with loved ones and friends about your mental illness so that they can support you and help you find the right treatment. While this isn’t an easy task, it is an important one.

Recognize Your Symptoms

As mentioned, one of the of the first steps in receiving proper treatment is being honest with yourself about your condition. This includes recognizing certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as indicative of potential mental illness. Some signs of mental illness may include:

  • Inability to concentrate or complete tasks at work or school.
  • Persistent lack of energy.
  • Inability to get excited about things in life.
  • Excessive and unrealistic worries with little or no explanation.
  • Overwhelming worry of embarrassment or ridicule during social situations.
  • Persistent mood swings.
  • Frequent crying.
  • Unexplained changes in sleep patterns or feelings of fatigue.
  • Thoughts of being hurt or hurting someone else.
  • Consistently feeling isolated or alone.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of symptoms, but it is important to recognize unusual thoughts, feelings, or behaviors within yourself. They may indicate a mental illness and should garner your attention.

Who Should You Talk To?

If you believe you are suffering from a mental illness, it may be difficult to know who to talk to about it. The best advice is to find someone to speak with who you can trust.

Most often, a family member is a great place to start. Think about when you were a child. If you injured yourself, who was the first person you would go to? Whether it’s your mother, father, sibling, or grandparent, your family loves and cares about you. They want you to be as well as possible and to help you find treatment if you need it.

If you feel anxious about speaking to your family first, that is all right too. Perhaps you would feel more comfortable speaking about your mental illness with your partner, or a close childhood friend or colleague. There is no right or wrong answer to who you should talk to. The most important thing to remember is that there are people around you that care for your wellbeing and want to help.

Starting the Conversation

You have already shown great bravery in recognizing that you have a problem and want to talk with someone about it. Now, it is time to begin the conversation about your mental illness. This process can be difficult at first. It may be uncomfortable to speak about yourself in such a vulnerable manner.

Here are a few things to consider when starting the conversation around your mental illness:

  • Be Open and Honest – This is arguably the most important component of the conversation. Hiding details or withholding information only does more harm than good. You chose this person to speak with because you trust them. Speak freely about what you are thinking and feeling. Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
  • Let the Conversation Go Uninterrupted – Remember, this is a very unique type of conversation to have with a person. It is normal for it to take a longer amount of time, so don’t feel the need to rush. Consider selecting a private location for this conversation so that it goes uninterrupted.
  • Be Prepared to Answer Questions – As you share information about yourself, it is normal for the other person to ask you questions. They want to better understand what you are experiencing. Take your time in answering if you need to. Just remember to be honest with who you are and what you are feeling.
  • Allow the Other Person to Process – When you open up to another person in this manner, it can be a lot to process on their end. They’ve likely never had this type of conversation before and may be unsure of how to respond at first. Don’t be alarmed if they take time to answer you.

Speaking about your mental illness is a difficult task but one that shows great courage on your part. You have opened yourself up to another person. This conversation may prove vital in securing the support and help you need.

After the Conversation

After speaking with a friend or loved one about your mental illness, what should you do now? There are additional things you can do that are highly encouraged in order to continue on the path to recovery. Some of these tasks include:

  • Continue the Conversation – Maintain communication about your condition, whether it is with the same person as before or with others you choose to open up to. Lean on them when you need love and support.
  • Consider a Test to Understand Your Condition – If you are unsure of how to summarize what you are thinking or feeling, consider psychological testing. This may help you better understand your condition and make it easier to receive focused treatment.
  • Remember That You’re Not Alone – While it is normal to feel isolated in your battle, remember that you are not alone. There are people around you who can help. Whether it is a loved one, a friend, or a trained professional, there are people who care about you and want to help.

Ultimately, having a conversation about mental illness is not an easy task, especially if it is about your own illness. However, it is an important step on the path to treatment and recovery. Always remember that there are people around you who want to help you overcome your mental illness and progress to a better life.


Photo by Morgan McDonald on Unsplash