Everyday Ways to Talk about Mental Health

By: Heather Ehnert, Communications & Advocacy Intern, NAMI Wisconsin

*Reprinted with permission by NAMI Wisconsin. Click here to read the original post.

Living with a mental health condition can present many challenges, such as scheduling and attending appointments with psychiatrists and therapists, getting the right medication, and facing the everyday difficulties of one’s affected thinking, mood, or behavior. Talking about your life with a mental illness with others can be an additional, entirely new challenge in itself. You may be worried that others will think less of you for having a mental illness, or that you will lose friends and family due to your condition being a burden. These are valid concerns, but it is important to remember that talking about your mental health provides an opportunity for others to care for you and provide support. It also helps inform others and break down stigmas that surround mental illness.

Here are some everyday ways to talk about your mental health, helping to change the stigmas that may surround what it means to have a mental illness:

  • If someone asks why you missed an event, be honest and tell them it was because of a therapy appointment, that you decided to stay home to take care of yourself instead, or that you did not feel mentally healthy enough to attend at that time. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but many people have likely been in similar situations but were too afraid of what others would think if they told the truth about their mental health. There is nothing to be ashamed of in having a mental health condition or in seeking care!
  • Our society tends to idolize the concept of “always being busy”. This can be difficult to look past, but telling others that you schedule time in your week to do nothing but relax and watch Netflix at home can be a great way to talk about mental health! Knowing that you need downtime because it helps prevent episodes of depression, anxiety, or OCD, etc. is a strength, not a weakness. You are taking time to care for yourself, and it is good for others to know that. Oftentimes, when someone else is open about allowing themselves time to relax, others feel that it’s okay for them to do the same.
  • Whether you are a high school or college student or a full-time employee, try to be open about your mental health and its state of wellness with your teachers or boss. These are the people you need to talk to about missing class or work for mental health related reasons, so it is best that they know you aren’t “skipping out” on your responsibilities, but rather, caring for yourself. This may mean notifying them that you need to stay home for a mental health day, or that you may need an extension on a project due to a challenging time with your illness. Not only will they be able to trust your integrity, but the people in these authority positions can often provide resources for assistance when dealing with a condition.

If you are seeking additional support, please do not hesitate to reach out to NAMI Dane County at (608) 249-7188.