A guide for young people on talking to friends and family about how you're feeling.
Talking to people who care about you can be really good for your mental health. But it might be scary, or you might not know where to start. Are you nervous about telling your friends and family what's going on? Don't know how to start the conversation? We're here to help you find a way.
Below we have information on the following:
It can be normal to worry about telling someone how you feel but trying to deal with things on your own can make things feel worse. Talking to someone you trust can help you to:
“I confided in a friend first – it was a huge relief to find out she sometimes experienced similar things and for the first time I felt I was understood.”
If you're worried about telling someone how you feel, it can help to feel prepared for the conversation. Here are some things you could think about:
Find a way that feels right for you – sometimes you might want to talk face-to-face but if this feels too difficult you could try:
Find a good time – the time may never feel perfect, but it can help if it's when they can give you their full attention and it's in a place where you feel comfortable.
Some people find it helps to have the conversation whilst doing something together, like going for a walk, so you feel more comfortable and the focus isn't just on you.
Practise what you want to say – this could be in your head or with a friend. You could even try writing things down.
“Talking to an anonymous source first (in my case, Samaritans) helped build confidence that what I was experiencing wasn’t abnormal.”
Finding the words to tell someone how you're feeling can sometimes be really hard. Here are some tips that might help:
Think about how to start – Sometimes knowing how you're going to start the conversation can make you feel more confident. We have some conversation starters below to give you some ideas.
Explain how you've been feeling – and how this affects other parts of your life, like your eating, sleep and how you've been feeling at school or college.
Try finding useful information or examples – if you've seen something on TV, online or in a book that feels similar to what you're experiencing, you could show them this to help explain how you're feeling.
For example, you could say "Have you been watching the TV series about…", "What do you think about the character who is experiencing…"
Suggest things they could do to help – like helping you find information, talking to your school, making a doctors appointment for you or just being there to listen and support you.
Only share what you're comfortable with – you don't need to tell them everything at once. Just tell them what you can.
“The best time I’ve found to speak is when doing something else, like walking, to ease the pressure of looking at someone face-to-face.”
When you tell someone about how you're feeling, it can be normal to want them to keep what you've said private, but they might need to tell someone else if they:
If you are worried about them telling someone else, it might help to explain why you don't want others to find out and ask them to let you know if they do plan to tell anyone else.
Sometimes we don't get the reaction we want when we talk to our friends and family about how we're feeling. If they don't understand or don't take you seriously, it isn't your fault. It could be that they feel shocked and just need time to think about what you've told them.
Even if you feel hurt, it might help to try talking to someone else you trust or just give them time and try again. Maybe you could try a different way of telling them, like writing a letter.
If they still don't understand, it might help to say "you might not understand why I feel the way I do, but I need you to accept it and help me by... "
“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.”
If you feel like you can't talk to your friends of family about what's going on, or they just don't understand, it could help to try talking to:
The most important thing is that you get support for how you're feeling.
“Sharing how I was feeling was the best decision I made."
This information was published in June 2019. We will revise it in 2021.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.