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How to talk with people about mental health

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Why is it so hard to talk about my anxiety or mental health with people?

Mental health continues to be stigmatized, which is why it has been and still is difficult to talk about.

If you look around your work environment, can you identify those who struggle with mental health? You might be able to identify some due to external manifestations of their mental health like crying or angry outbursts, however, chances are you would probably say “no.”

According to Mental Health America, over 45 million people are suffering from mental illness in the U.S. every year. This equates to 18.57% of the population, which means almost 1 in 5 people are affected by mental illness. This means you are not alone.

With that being said, it makes sense that you might feel uncomfortable, particularly in a work environment. Mental health struggle can be perceived as weakness, however, admitting something so vulnerable as this is truly a sign of strength.

Even though conversations around mental health are getting louder and more prevalent, they are still hard. So, here are some things to consider when you talk about your mental health.

  1. Consider who you are talking with and the depth of your relationship. Are they a person who will listen with compassion and empathy? Will revealing this vulnerability be detrimental?

  2. If you are talking with a boss or co-worker, do you know the laws related to mental health? You are not required to divulge information and sometimes it can help you get some accommodations you might need. You can start by looking at the information provided here.

  3. Not all people are informed about mental health, which is why it is important not to judge them either. Some people really don’t know and may have some preconceived notions about what anxiety or bipolar means. You may be the one to bridge the gap of their knowledge.

  4. Hiding is never the answer, so find SOMEONE to talk with even if it is not your boss. This might help you find the courage to say something.

  5. Think about what you need. What is the function of telling someone about your mental health? Are you clear about your goals?

  6. Timing is everything. Do not wait until you are completely stressed and burnt out to talk with your employer or boss. This will not serve you well because you are much more likely to react in ways contrary to how you would regularly, so opt for sooner than later.

  7. When you decide to do it – go for it! Don’t overcomplicate the conversation. Start with “hey, I need to talk with you about something, do you have time to listen?” Be clear, concise, professional and appropriate because they are not your therapist.

  8. Role play with a friend or therapist before you jump in. This is a wonderful way for you to reduce the additional anxiety of having this conversation, plus you can get some more tips from others.

  9. Take care of yourself. Plan for relaxing activities after you have this conversation.

Remember, you are not your stress, mental illness or struggle. Reach out to us if you are needing to support --

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