Some of us are open and honest with our close friends about our challenges and feelings, and some of us are more private. There is no “right” way to share what you’re going through — every friendship or relationship is different. Sharing more about your personal life may help you feel closer to people, but it may also open the possibility of your friend sharing information with others against your wishes.
When it comes to sharing information about your mental health, it’s important to decide in advance what you’re most comfortable with. It may be helpful also to consider why you want to share the information, for example:
- To show that you have common experiences with someone
- To ask for help
- To gain empathy and compassion from someone
- To explain your actions or behavior
For example, if your friends invite you to a party but you are uncomfortable going because of your anxiety, it might be helpful for them to understand why you declined the invite. The same thing happens with other health conditions. If you have a food allergy, there may be certain places that don’t make sense for you to go eat.
Think about what you want to accomplish, or what you expect from your friends as a response (but be careful not try to mind-read and assume negative thoughts), before starting a conversation about your mental health. The choice is always yours about what you share and with whom you share it.
What to Say
Some conversations are “bigger” than others, and it’s normal to feel uncertain or worried about sharing something personal or emotional. Before you begin a conversation about your mental health, it might be helpful to write down what you want to say or practice a few times in private. Practicing in front of a mirror can be helpful. If you are having trouble making decisions about how or what to share, you could discuss it with an adult that you trust, including your school counselor or therapist if you have one.
Remember that it’s OK to keep some details private. You don’t have to share your specific diagnosis or what kind of treatment/support you are receiving if you’re not comfortable doing so. You might want to let friends know that you are having a mental health or emotional problem and you appreciate their support while you are learning to manage it. It might be helpful to share how this impacts you and your relationship with them.
Sharing this basic information with a friend might save you some worry in the future. If you need to miss an event or change a plan because of your mental health, they’ll be more likely to understand and be supportive.
As you develop a better understanding of your mental health condition — and gain more experience discussing it — it will become easier to make decisions about who to share with and how to have those conversations.
Seize the Awkward
A helpful resource for how to have conversations about mental health.