Get help now Make a donation

Getting ready to open up about your mental health – for 11-18 year olds

Tips and ideas for young people on how to get ready to open up about your mental health.

Tips on preparing to open up

If you're worried about telling someone how you feel, it can help to feel prepared.

This page has tips and ideas that could help you to get ready to open up to someone about your mental health.

Some of our tips might work better for you than others, or some tips might feel too difficult for you right now. You don't need to try anything that you don't feel comfortable with, or you could try them at another time.

I feel ready to open up

If you already feel prepared, read about ways to open up about your mental health.

I personally find it easier to tell people about how I'm feeling via text as it feels less daunting to me. It also allows the other person to read what I have to say multiple times so they understand it better.

Find a way that feels right for you

You might want to talk face-to-face, but this might feel too difficult or not be possible. You could also try:

  • Talking on the phone
  • Talking over a video-call
  • Sending a voice note

If you don't want to speak, or don't feel like talking to anyone right now, that's okay. There are other ways you can express how are you feeling to someone you trust. You could try:

  • Sending them a text or email
  • Writing them a letter
  • Drawing or painting a picture to show how you feel
  • Sending them information about how you feel, like a TikTok or YouTube video

Find a good time

The time may never feel perfect, but it's best if you both feel comfortable and ready to talk. You might want to choose a time when you're both free and won't be interrupted.

If you decide to speak to someone face-to-face, choose a place where you feel comfortable. You might find it helps you to speak to them while doing something together, like going for a walk or watching TV.

If you don't feel ready to open up to someone in person, take your time writing things down or putting together a text. Make a start when you feel comfortable and can think things through. You might want to come back to it at another time or read it through a couple of times first.

Think about if you want someone else involved

You might want another friend or family member to help you if you think it's too much on your own. You could talk to them about how you want to open up or ask them to help you write your feelings down.

Or you might want someone else to talk for you, like asking a teacher to talk to your parents, carers or guardians about how you're feeling.

Practise what you want to say

This could be in your head or with someone else. You could even try writing things down or leaving yourself a voice note.

You can also use some of our conversation starters to help you with what to say.

Plan what you're okay with sharing

There might be certain things you don't want to share, or aren't ready to share yet. Only share what you feel comfortable with right now.

Remember that it might be a lot for someone to take in at first – they may need some time to process what you've told them. They might not need or want to hear every detail now, but in time, you might be able to open up to them more.

If you decide to open up to someone but don't get the reaction you want, remember, it's not your fault. See our information for advice on what to do if they don't understand.

Think about where you're sharing

If you're talking to someone online or on social media, it's important to stay safe.

Think about what you feel comfortable sharing and what you want to keep private. Childline offer some information on how to do this. They also have online message boards for young people where you can get support from others.

If you choose to use message boards or social media to talk to other people, try to use sites that have been created for people your age. It's also a good idea to use sites where messages are reviewed and monitored to help keep you safe.

The first time I opened up to someone about my mental health, I regret not conveying what I wanted from them. It would have been easier for me to say, ‘Can I see a doctor about this?’ rather than waiting for them to suggest it.

Think about what can help you cope

If you feel overwhelmed, it might help to do some breathing exercises. Try to:

  • Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts
  • Hold this breath it for 2 counts
  • Finally, breathe out through your mouth for 7 counts

If you repeat this, it can slow your breath and help keep you calm.

You could also try playing with a fidget toy or look at an image that makes you feel calm.

Make a plan to take care of yourself afterwards

Opening up can feel difficult and tiring. You could think of something nice to do afterwards, like watching your favourite TV show or going for a walk. You can find more ideas on our page about looking after your wellbeing.

The best advice I could offer is just being as honest and open as possible. The more honest you are, the more they know and the more they can try to help – Lily, 16

Think about how to start the conversation

If you want to have a conversation with someone about how you feel, knowing how to start can help you to feel more confident.

There's no perfect way to start but if you're finding it difficult, you could start by saying:

  • “This is difficult for me to talk about, but I need to tell you something.”
  • “I've got some things on my mind, can we talk sometime?”
  • “I've been feeling ____ lately, and I'm trying to tell you about it because ____.”
  • “I’ve been worried about ____ recently and wondered if I could talk to you about it?”
  • “I’ve been finding it hard to cope with ____ at the moment. Can we talk about it later?”
  • “I know it might look like things are okay, but they’re not and I want to talk to you about it.”

You might find it helps to ask the person you're telling to wait until you have finished talking to respond.

decorative

It may be a lot for them to hear how you've been feeling. They may find it upsetting or a lot to take in at first. But you should feel proud of yourself for taking the first step.

Because this one person reacted negatively doesn't mean everyone will. This also doesn't mean that you don't deserve the support you need.

Explain how you've been feeling and how it impacts your life

This could be things like your eating, sleep and how you've been feeling at school, college or work.

Try finding useful information or examples

You might have seen something on TV, online or in a book that feels similar to what you're experiencing. You could show this to them to help explain how you're feeling.

For example, you could say “Have you been watching the TV series about…”, or “What do you think about the character who is experiencing…”.

If someone else you know has been going through something similar, you might want to talk about them first to help explain how you feel.

Suggest things they could do to help

This could be helping you find information or talking to your school, college or workplace. It could also be making a doctor's appointment for you or just being there to listen and support you.

Tell them things that might not help

You might want to ask them to still treat you the same way, or not talk about how you feel when you're with other people.

Not everyone wants to open up in the same way. You might need to:

  • Write down your questions and thoughts for them before you start.
  • Ask them to give you time to explain how you’re feeling before they respond.
  • Ask them to be clear and direct with any questions they might have.
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself if they don’t understand you straight away.
  • Find a space where you won't feel distracted. This might mean turning down the lights or going somewhere quiet.

Opening up is one of the bravest things you can do, and I wish it was more normal.

Who can I talk to?

We have advice on who to open up to and what to do if you don't have anyone talk to.

This information was published in 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

For more information

arrow_upwardBack to Top