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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five Americans will experience a mental health disorder in any given year. They also report that one in 25 people has a severe mental health condition, like bipolar disorder or major depression. Even though taking care of our mental health is crucial to our overall wellness, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health disorders and treatments. This can make it challenging to have conversations regarding mental health topics.
Mental Health and Stigmas
Stigmas are attached to things or topics with negative attitudes and beliefs. Often this negativity stems from fear of the unknown, lack of education about the issue, or both. When mental health issues are surrounded by stigma, it can cause two big problems.
First, it can cause discrimination and poor treatment of individuals with mental health challenges. Second, it may lead individuals facing mental health challenges to avoid talking about them. They may even avoid seeking treatment, even when they need it most.
The best way to reduce stigmas surrounding mental health is to start having conversations about it. When you talk openly about mental health challenges, you are helping to normalize. Education about mental health is also crucial for ending stigmas. The more you know, the more you will be able to understand and empathize. Stay conscious of the language you use and the language you allow to be used around you. Remember that word choice matters.
You can also encourage people to consider mental and physical health equally important. Seeking treatment for mental health issues should be just as accepted as going to the doctor for an infection. Our mental health is a critical factor in our overall wellness, and everyone should be able to seek support and treatment when they need it without hesitation or shame.
Before Starting the Conversation
When preparing to have a discussion with friends or family, remember that there is nothing shameful about it. One of the most challenging stigmas to overcome is the idea that mental health challenges are some sort of failure. Seeking support for something like major depressive disorder is not a sign of weakness. Approach the conversation the same way you would approach a conversation about a broken arm or an arthritis diagnosis.
Timing can be key when thinking about when to have a conversation about mental health. If you are struggling with mental health issues, you must pick a time and a place where you feel comfortable. Remember that you don’t have to share anything you aren’t comfortable with. Forcing yourself to give more information than you are comfortable with or talking about things before you are ready will only put more stress on your mental health.
Make sure that you have a pretty firm grasp of the general information you want to share. Be prepared to ask questions that people may ask. You can also have a prepared response for when you don’t want to answer a question, such as, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that yet,” or “I’d prefer not to discuss that.”
Tips for Mental Health Discussions
Only you can decide how you want to handle the conversation about your mental health. When you decide you are ready to have an open discussion, here are a few guidelines that can help:
- Prioritize your comfort level. You may want to have a one-on-one conversation in private, or you may want to tell multiple people at once in a group setting. Maybe you would prefer to have the discussion in a public place. The who, what, when, and where of a mental health discussion is completely up to you. Making sure you are comfortable will make the conversation much easier.
- Set boundaries and stick with them. When opening the conversation, it may be a good idea to manage expectations and set boundaries. Are you looking for advice and support, or do you simply want them to listen? Discuss only what you are comfortable with, and don’t let anyone push you further than you are ready for.
- Ask for the kind of support you need. Everyone will have their own thoughts, opinions, and ideas on how to support you. You are the only one who knows what will be most helpful. Decide what kind of support you will need and communicate that clearly during the conversation. This is another great opportunity to establish boundaries.
No matter how you decide to handle conversations about mental health, remember that you are in control.
Seeking Professional Support
When experiencing mental health challenges, you might be considering seeking advice from a mental health professional if you haven’t already. If you are experiencing negative feelings and thoughts that are impacting how you are able to function in your daily life, it is a good idea to talk to a professional. They can help you understand your feelings, learn coping skills, and provide treatment if necessary.
It can also be beneficial to have a mental health professional, such as a therapist, help you prepare for conversations about your mental health. A therapist can help you decide what you want to say and how to set healthy boundaries during the conversation. When facing mental health challenges and having conversations about those challenges, having that support from a therapist you trust can be crucial.
Discussions about mental health with your friends and loved ones can sometimes feel overwhelming and frightening. Opening up about your thoughts and feelings is a vulnerable experience. At Alter Wellness Care, we understand that there is a lot of uncertainty to deal with when you are facing mental health challenges. Our goal is to provide the best evidence-based therapies and resources to each of our clients, from diagnosis to treatment plan. We have a compassionate team of mental health professionals that can help you through any challenge you are facing. Call us today at (866) 311-3510 for more information about how we can help you achieve your mental health goals.