Understanding and getting help for mental illness is a challenge. Let alone planning how to talk to a friend about mental health. But the challenge is worth it.
Around 51.5 million Americans experience mental health illness every year. So, if you are in a room with nine other people, there will be at least one person who’s struggling.
Mental health awareness is increasing, but it is not an easy topic to drop into conversation. But if you are ready, talking to a friend has many benefits, notably that they can support and understand you.
Read on for all you need to know about how to talk to a friend about mental health.
Benefits of Talking About Mental Health
It might feel awkward for several minutes, but once you push past the fear, sharing with a friend means:
- They better understand what you are going through
- You can share ways they can support you
- Get encouragement
- Your friendship becomes stronger
- Less stress so you can focus on recovery
- It can be lifesaving
- It breaks stigma, especially for men
It is doubtful a friend will reject you. And if they do? It is because of their lack of understanding or that they are not a good friend.
You do not have to tell everyone. Think about which friend supports you and who you feel comfortable around. If you are still unsure, write a list of the pros and cons of talking to a friend.
And, imagine it was the other way around. What would you want? The friend to share, of course!
When To Talk About Mental Illness
Just before a friend goes to work or at a party might not be the best time to discuss your mental health.
You want a location that is convenient for both of you. It should be a location, with little to no distractions. Consider whether you want privacy, so you can freely talk, or think of somewhere more public where you dont mind being around other people.
One of the most important things to do is to give yourself time. Talking about a major topic like your mental health is not something you should do during a ten-minute lunch break. You need time to discuss everything you want.
And make sure you feel ready and are well enough to tackle the conversation.
How To Prepare
Spontaneity is great, but for something as personal as mental health, it is better to go in with a plan. If you are getting therapy, your therapist can help you prepare too.
Create a Goal
Consider what you want to disclose. Do you want to talk about your symptoms or how they can support you? There is no right or wrong disclosure.
Plan what to say if you do not want to answer a question: ‘I appreciate you, but I do not want to talk about that right now.’
Write It Down
Some people find writing it down in a letter format can help. If you need structure, consider:
- How you have been feeling
- What you are struggling with
- What help you want
For example, ‘I have been feeling paranoid recently. I am struggling to sleep. Please can you remind me it is due to my mental health illness?’
You can even read from it during the talk. Writing your feelings down is a therapeutic activity too!
Bring Resources About Mental Health Disorders
If you do not want to explain disorders or symptoms in detail, resources can help. Check out our anxiety resources, for example. Resources also allow the individual time to read through everything and process.
Plan a Conversation Starter
A topic or article can help open up the conversation about mental health. For example, it might be World Mental Health Day. So, you could start from this point and how you think it is an excellent time to share.
Some activities can also open up discussion. Maybe you have started exercise, meditation, or therapy. Or pick something random but exciting, such as rage rooms!
Tell your friend you want to plan a time to talk to them about something. Send a message if you cannot say it out loud. Once you schedule the talk, you are halfway there!
How To Talk To a Friend About Mental Health
So, you have a plan, and the day has come. How do you begin to talk about it? Soon the conversation will start to flow, and your friend may ask questions, which can help prompt you.
Have an Opening
Have an opening to acknowledge how you feel and how meaningful the conversation is to you.
- I have something I want to share…
- I am nervous right now, but…
- I have not been around much recently; there is a reason why…
You want to set the tone and any boundaries. For example, that you do not want their advice. You just want them to listen.
Do not be vague; use ‘I’ statements. So they know specifically, this is to do with you and how you feel. It can be scary to be assertive but do not feel shame; this is your time.
You can also speak about any positives, such as what the mental health illness has taught you.
You do not have to be defensive. Take some deep breaths, or have something like a stress ball to hold, if there are difficult moments.
But also protect yourself with boundaries. Do not be afraid to ask them not to give suggestions or feel you have to explain what you are doing to heal.
Suggest Ways They Can Support You
A friend may feel powerless to help if they are not familiar with mental health disorders. Make suggestions personal to you:
- An encouraging text each day would help
- I would love a hug now and then
- Can you help me find a doctor?
Giving suggestions will help conclude what is possible for both of you. Then you can start getting the best support you deserve.
Discuss Mental Health
You are not alone. Support is out there for you, and friends can be part of that. It is scary to be vulnerable, but it leads to stronger friendships and mental health recovery.
The prevalence of mental health disorders is increasing. The more we open up about mental health, the more we defeat the stigma, and the less we feel alone. You may be surprised when a friend discloses their mental health struggle too.
There are many techniques for how to talk to a friend about mental health. But these pointers will give you the structure and safe space you need to open up. Good luck!
Do you need support with your mental health? Contact us today to see how we can help!