How Do I Discuss My Mental Illness With My Friends, Family, and Co-workers?

Many individuals diagnosed with mental illness may feel compelled to keep their diagnosis and treatment a secret. This may be due to the stigmas caused by confusion and misinformation about mental illness and psychiatric treatment. The individual may feel unsure of how and even whether to disclose their mental health information to family, friends, bosses, co-workers, or even a new girlfriend or boyfriend.

How Do I Discuss My Mental Illness With My Friends, Family, and Co-workers?

When an individual decides to disclose their mental health status, the first step is deciding what you are comfortable sharing and what you want to keep private. Sit down with your counselor or a trusted friend and role-play the discussion. Try to anticipate questions and how you may respond. If you find yourself getting tongue-tied when you talk about your illness, take a moment to think about or even journal what you want the individual to know about your diagnosis.  Think about why it is important to share this information. Knowing what you will and will not say ahead of time will help you set boundaries with the individual if they begin to ask questions that are too personal.

If you decide to disclose your mental health status at work, consider talking to a patient advocate regarding the rights of workers as it pertains to mental health and discrimination. If you feel comfortable disclosing your status, keep the information generic without revealing intimate details. You want to assure your boss/co-worker that your mental health in no way impacts your ability to do your job.

Discussing your mental health with someone you have just begun dating can be awkward, to say the least. When you decide that you are ready to discuss your illness with your prospective partner, plan what you want to say ahead of time. Wait for a time when you have privacy and will not be disturbed. Give your partner time to process the information and answer questions. If you are not able to answer all questions, your counselor may be able to assist.

Why discuss your diagnosis with anyone? The confusion about mental illness leads to more stigma. As those with mental illness share their stories and experiences, greater clarity and understanding will lead to greater acceptance. As a bonus, others may learn something from your story that will allow them to address problems in their own lives. If you need more information about mental health, contact us.