The first time you open up about your mental health is likely to be difficult. Choosing the right person to speak to can feel daunting, the person should be someone you feel comfortable with and trust, such as a friend, parent or partner. Try to choose a time when the conversation will not have to be cut short, and in a place where you feel comfortable.
6 Ways to Start the Conversation
1. Write It Down
Sometimes saying the words is the toughest part. You worry about stumbling over them and not making sense because it is hard to articulate what is going on in your head. So, write it down, edit and rewrite it until you feel happy with it. And then give it to someone you trust, it will help you to start the conversation.
2. Text It
Sending a message to the person you want to talk to simply saying ‘I need to talk about my mental health’. You can even be in the same room as the person when you send it.
3. Practise Starting the Conversation
Create your own soliloquy that asks the person you wish to open up to listen without interrupting, explains how you are feeling and why you are worried. Practise starting the conversation over and over again until you feel like you are confident with
4. Look Away
Sometimes, facing a person can make you feel more self-conscious, so look away to begin the conversation. It could be as simple as looking at your shoes, or physically turning your body away (just remember to explain that you are nervous and this will help you initially).
5. Blurt It Out
Over thinking can be your enemy, sometimes it is just easier to blurt out your worries at an unplanned, but comfortable and safe, moment as it can take the pressure off you.
6. Find Something Relatable
As much as television and film like to over dramatise mental illness, they can also be a good segue into the conversation. Something as simple as ‘I’ve been feeling a bit like that recently, can we talk about it?’ can allow you to begin the conversation without feeling the need to make a big deal out of it and put extra pressure on yourself.
Remember this may be a surprise for the person you are opening up to – they may feel awkward or unsure of how to respond. Give them time for processing, talking about anything health related can be difficult at first.
Come armed with information – it is likely that you have researched how you are feeling before hand, it may have helped you to process everything: that information may well be useful to the person you are talking to too.
Be prepared for questions – people will naturally want to understand better, so be prepared for questions such as ‘How long have you been feeling this?’ ‘Can you explain what it feels like?’ ‘Did something happen to cause it?’ You do not have to answer all the questions if you do not feel comfortable answering them, but remember that the answers you give may help the other person to support you.
Be prepared for negativity – you might not get the reaction you hoped for; some people may not understand (especially if they have not experienced mental health difficulties themselves). Alternatively, the person could dismiss what you are saying, believing that you are being over dramatic or have nothing to worry about so cannot be really feeling as you do. If faced with this, you can explain how it is impacting on your day-to-day life and offer them information to help understand the medical side of it. However, if this person still isn’t understanding, it may be more beneficial for you to find someone else to speak to. Please don’t go back to ignoring your situation or struggling alone.
Be prepared for your own emotions – come armed with tissues! You may well feel relief at having opened up about something that has been weighing on your mind, and this can cause tears. You might also find that you become frustrated or angry whilst trying to explain your feelings, this is normal.
You may experience physical symptoms – nervousness is typical, and the physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, shaking and shortness of breath are real possibilities. Do not let this put you off, once you start the talk, you will probably find these symptoms lessen.
Depending on who you talk to, you may have to open up to someone else – parents, partner, boss, friends, teacher. This does not have to be straight away, but be aware that while it is sometimes easier to open up to certain people, these may not be the ones who can best support you in the next steps (such as contacting professional help).
Remember this is a step on your journey – it is an important step, but there will be a long way to go, so be prepared that you will need to start the conversation with other people in the future.
You might need to get an appointment with your doctor – in the UK, mental health support often begins with your doctor. This does not necessarily mean you will be given medications, it can open the door for therapy, counselling and allows you to find the right professional help to support you as an individual.
Your mental health is important: seek help and support as soon as possible.