It can sometimes be really difficult to talk about your feelings with friends or family. It's common to feel worried about upsetting people you care about, and feel nervous about what people will think, or how it might affect your relationships.
You may feel more comfortable opening up to friends or family than professionals, or you may find it easier to approach a professional (such as your doctor) first. There's no right or wrong way round. But the people closest to us can often be a valuable source of support.
Whenever you feel ready, these tips might help you start the conversation:
- Find a method of communication that feels right for you. This might be a face-to-face conversation, or you might find it easier to talk on the phone or write down how you feel in a letter.
- Find a suitable time and place. There may not be a 'good' time, but it can help if you're somewhere quiet and comfortable, and are unlikely to be disturbed for a while.
- Practice what you want to say. You could do this in your head or make some notes. Phrases such as "I've not been feeling like myself lately" or "I'm finding it hard to cope at the moment" might provide a starting point.
- Offer them relevant information and examples. If you've found a useful description in a book or online, or seen someone on television or in a film saying something that feels right to you, you could use this to help explain what you're experiencing.
- Be honest and open. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing something so personal, but explaining how your feelings are affecting your life may help others to understand.
- Suggest things they could do to help. This might just be listening and offering emotional support – or there may be practical help you need (see examples in our page on helping someone else seek help).
- Don't expect too much from one conversation. Understanding mental health problems can take time, and some people may be shocked or react badly at first. It's important to give them some time to process what you've told them. But if possible, plan to come back to the conversation with them again, to give you more opportunities to explain what you're going through.
For more information about talking to your friends about your mental health, visit the Mental Health Foundation website.
The Time to Change website also has some videos of people sharing their experiences about opening up.
This information was published in December 2017 – to be revised in 2020. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing.