7 Ways To Include Friends & Family In Your Mental Health Journey

sharing mental health struggles with those close to you

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When it comes to our mental health, understanding that it’s a journey makes all the difference. There are going to be ups and downs. Wins and what may feel like losses. Everything is in a state of flux, and our ability to adapt is what makes us strong.

Whether we’re going through a good or bad experience, knowing we have the tools to cope makes things easier to manage. It’s something that’ll take you from feeling overwhelmed to being able to face the problem head-on. Our friends and family knowing about what we’re dealing with can give us a great advantage.

By sharing what you’re going through with those nearest and dearest to you, you can make your mental health journey easier and the process less fraught with tension, stress, and concern. Being able to trust that you’ve got the support you need makes the road ahead easier to manage.

1) Tell Them Why You Are in Therapy

Don’t feel guilty if you feel reluctant to tell your family and friends that you’ve started seeing a therapist. This discomfort is 100% normal, especially if you struggle to show your vulnerability. If you’re wondering whether having this conversation is even worth it, do know it is worth it. Difficult as it may be, there are many benefits to having those closest to you aware of what’s going on.

Use these tips to make getting the dialogue easier:

  • Discuss what you’re going to be saying with your mental health practitioner. Then spend time thinking about what your goal for this conversation is.
  •  Find the right time to talk to your loved ones.
  •  Talk clearly about your particular needs.
  •  Don’t become too attached to a certain outcome. Prepare yourself for an organic reaction to what you’re sharing and remember, it may be tough.
  •  Don’t ever forget that no one is entitled to private information about you. You’re in control of how much, or how little, you choose to share.

Whether you’ve sought out therapy to finally deal with trauma in the distant past, recover from emotional damage you’ve more recently undergone, handle anxiety, cope with depression, or start dealing with substance abuse, a good social support network can be crucial to healing.

Telling your loved ones you’ve started seeing a mental health professional is the first step in building a supportive network. A social network that’ll help you grow and health through positive support.

2) Let Them Know if You Have to Manage a Chronic Condition

Do your best to remember that knowledge is power. Some people find themselves stressed and overwhelmed at the thought of implementing long-term strategies to manage any chronic conditions. Many have found including others in your plan has served to help relieve that stress, because they aren’t alone. Detailing the physical, psychological, mental, and/or emotional reasons for behavior they might have already noticed may also help your friends and family allay their anxieties about your well-being.

  • You may find planning the conversation out in advance helpful or write down notes about what you want to say.
  •  Keep things simple. If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, open the conversation up by saying something along the lines of, “Depression is why I’ve been spending less time with you”, or “Anxiety has made it difficult for me to get more involved in class”. 
  •  Don’t get attached to how you think they may, or should, react. Be prepared for negative and positive outcomes alike. 
  •  If they say something along the lines of, “What you’re describing is normal”, you could respond by saying, “Be that as it may, I’m struggling to manage this on my own”. 
  •  Even the most supportive parents, or long-standing friends, may be shocked and saddened by your news. They may react defensively too, feeling guilty because they think they should’ve been able to do more. Give them time to process your talk.

3) Talk About Your Feelings

It’s irrational to assume that, just because you are ignoring them, your feelings will disappear. If you tend to ignore your emotions and suffer alone, put processes into action that help you change this habit.

When you acknowledge how you feel by talking about it with someone you trust, you will find that it’s that much easier to deal with your current emotional reality, no matter how negative or frightening it may be.

This can be described as a wonderful first step towards changing a habit, but be sure to bear in mind that you have spent a lifetime hiding how you feel. Talking about it openly and honestly is not something that’s going to happen overnight. 

You need to bring yourself to the understanding that talking about your feelings is not a sign of weakness. It’s actually the exact opposite, It’s an indication that you are starting to take control of your own mental and emotional well-being. Doing what’s necessary to stay healthy, It’s also a way to reduce their negative emotional impact since it’s a sign that you’re in control, and it validates your experience. When you can acknowledge that an event has upset you, you’re telling yourself that your reaction to the world is worth recognition and respect.

You’ll also find that, when you’re talking about your feelings with people you care about, your bond with them deepens. It goes both ways, too. When you discuss vulnerable states with your family and friends, you give them permission to do the same.

sharing mental health with a professional

4) Tell Them How to Help You – And What Doesn’t Help

Your experience as you progress through each step of your mental health journey will be an individual one. This may seem self-evident, but if you think about it, you may find that you’re expecting those closest to you to somehow intuit what it is you need. Having the people around you know precisely what it is you need may well require that you sit down and explicitly tell them.

  • People with an anxiety disorder will greatly appreciate the lines of communication being kept open but may be particularly sensitive to their loved one’s feeling frustrated with them.
  •  People with bipolar disorder informing their friends and family of their condition may allay the guilt of those around them. Your circle of trusted friends and relations may think that they’re to blame for your feelings of anger and frustration. This information will also help them understand that, even though it doesn’t always present as a disorder, you’re definitely dealing with one.
  •  If you are struggling with depression, you may find that telling the people around you about how large a factor exercise plays in mitigating your feelings of sadness. This may inspire them to help you meet your goals regarding physical exertion. Or, telling them that you need to stay away from alcohol because it can become a real issue for depression will get you the support you need in this department.

5) Reach Out

It’s difficult to overstate how important it is for you to make contact with the people you care about when you’re dealing with struggles related to your mental health journey. When you’re battling anxiety, seeking treatment for depression, eating too much, eating too little, or struggling with ideas of self-harm, the simple act of engaging with someone else may help put things into perspective. It will also very likely get you the help you may need.

When you reach out with honesty, you’re that much more likely to get what you need. It’s also important to note that each and every person who is open about their mental health struggles reduces the ridiculous stigmas still associated with mood disorders. This means it will be easier, even if only incrementally so, for the next person to speak up.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure exactly what to say to those around you about what you’re going through. Simply stating that you don’t want to go through things alone will be enough. It lets the people who care about you understand that you need extra care, tenderness, and understanding at support right now. It will also ensure they’re aware that you might need assistance in getting the right kind of help.

Nobody needs to struggle alone. There are more quality mental health resources available now than ever before and generalized support may be just a phone call away.

6) Be Honest and Accountable

Perhaps you’ve recently chosen to start seeking assistance with your mental health journey, but are unsure about how much information you need to disclose to make sure you get what you need. To put it simply, you have to be honest with the professionals you’re going to be working with. You’ll also need to be truthful with those around you.

Honesty in mental health treatment is non-negotiable since it’s the only way that other people can understand what exactly you’re facing and determine the right strategies to help you. If you fail to let the people trying to help you know what you’re facing, it’s almost an impossibility that you’re going to get what you need.

Let’s say you’re thinking about self-harm. Not acknowledging this out loud puts you at risk of an incident. Treatment that has not been ascribed to dealing with exactly what you’re going through is nowhere near as valuable as the treatment that tackles your real problems. When you’re honest about your feelings and accountable for how closely you’re following the recommended therapy course or not, you will be that much closer to getting your needs met.

This course of action may also help you pinpoint the deep-rooted reasons for your mental health difficulties. You may be suffering through the symptoms of a medical condition you’re unaware of or trying to fight your way through an addiction of some kind.

If you’re honest with your friends, family, and the professionals committed to helping you, you’re far more likely to expose whatever underlying difficulties are plaguing you.

sharing mental health struggles with friends and family

7) Ask Them to Go for Joint Counseling 

When mental illnesses like dissocial disorder, disruptive behavior, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia appear in a family or a social circle, the emotional cost on everyone can be very high. Circumstances may see everyone struggling and it’s important that your friends and relations know how to not only encourage and support you but also cope with your illness. This includes its effect on you and whatever fallout they may be facing.

Joint counseling creates a space where it’s safe to ask questions about how the people around you need to operate on a day-to-day basis and what their recourse is when they feel overwhelmed. When everyone is in the same room as a licensed professional, the question of exhaustion and how to handle it can be tackled for those experiencing compassion fatigue. This can also help everyone to set healthy boundaries and create realistic expectations on all sides.

When everyone has a chance to tell their story and narrate their personal experience, an environment that actively fosters growth and healing is created. This is precisely where you need to be when you’re taking your mental health journey milestones seriously and making sure that everyone knows what’s going on.

Take It One Day at a Time

Mental health is not just about how and what we’re thinking. It will also dictate how we feel and how we act and, in turn, affect our personal-, study-, and work lives. It’s finally becoming obvious that our psychological, emotional, and mental well-being is as important as our physical health.

When you’re operating from a strong mental health standpoint, you’re likely to see an improvement in your ability to learn and in how creatively you can think. Your productivity levels will be higher, your relationships will blossom and deepen, and your physical health will be impacted for the better, too.

When you take your family and friends along with you on this voyage of the heart and mind, they can support you when the inevitable restlessness strikes. They can help you get past blocks and struggles and ensure you get whatever help you need when you ask for it.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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I’m Kamini Wood

My name is Kamini Wood, and I’m here to accompany you on your journey toward understanding yourself on a deeper level so can create the life you want personally and professionally. It’s time to embrace your AuthenticMe ™