Part of caring for your mental health is learning how to talk about it. Expressing your emotions by talking to friends or writing in a journal are examples of healthy ways to cope with what you’re feeling.
Just like your physical health, mental health can impact your daily life. When that’s the case, you might need to talk about your mental health with your school, employer, friend, or family member that may not understand what you’re going through.
Here’s how to get started.
Walkiria De Jesus, a school psychologist with the Osceola County School District tells us, “Expressing our emotions has a lot to do with your ability to feel comfortable about owning them.”
She suggests writing in a journal, identifying what you're feeling, and giving those feelings a name.
Mental Health America has a free worksheet you can use to help you find the right words to express how you’re feeling. If you’re a parent of a young child or if you have difficulty putting words to your emotions, you can use an emotions chart.
Sometimes, we’re taught to hide our emotions. Phrases like, “Toughen up,” or “Big girls don’t cry,” are familiar to us. While it might be difficult at first, expressing our emotions is healthy.
When we talked to Andrew Duffy, a school social worker at Harmony High School, he gave us a few tips on how to practice expressing our emotions.
Andrew suggests talking with somebody you trust. He tells us, “It doesn’t really matter if it’s an adult or somebody else your age. You can even start with a pet or something like that if that feels easier.”
The more we practice our conversations about mental health, the easier it becomes.
Remember, you only have to disclose the things you’re comfortable with when you’re ready. Using healthy conversation skills can go a long way.
Your mental health is unique and complex so talking about it with others may take a few conversations before they understand what you’re going through. Think of it as talking about your physical health with your primary care doctor. It can take a few appointments and follow-up conversations to get the right diagnosis, treatment, and support.
If your mental health is interfering with schoolwork or your job, you might consider disclosing what you’re going through with your teachers or employer. In many cases, they can offer you accommodations, or modifications, to help you cope better with a mental illness at school or work.
For example, if you struggle with anxiety, taking frequent breaks to take a walk to get fresh air can be an accommodation you can ask for. If you struggle with feeling burnt out, working with your employer to delegate some of your responsibilities can help.
For students, developing an individualized education program (IEP) is important. This way, your teachers know what accommodations help you learn best.
In some cases, the person you’re talking to may not respond positively to what you tell them. Unfortunately, many don’t understand mental health. This creates a stigma that prevents some people from talking about it openly.
When this happens, remember that a negative response is not a reflection of who you are. It may be that the other person doesn’t understand or isn’t ready to have this particular conversation. That’s okay. You can always talk to someone else.
Support groups are a great way to relate to others who have had similar experiences. Sharing your feelings in a safe space like a support group can help you get more comfortable with talking about your mental health. Relating to others and having an outlet for what you’re going through is a great way to improve your mental health.
Sometimes talking with a close friend about what you’re going through can make a world of difference. Other times, you might want to talk with a mental health professional like a therapist or psychologist.
In certain situations, getting immediate help is crucial. If you have thoughts of suicide, are thinking of harming yourself or others, or feel that you are in immediate danger, reaching out can be life-saving.
In an emergency, you should always call 9-1-1. Let the dispatcher know you are dealing with a mental health crisis. This way, personnel who are trained to respond to a mental health call will come to your aid.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also a valuable resource. You can speak with a counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Simply call 1-800-273-8255.
Even if you feel good, speaking with a therapist can be beneficial. Therapists can help you develop goals, maintain good mental health, and provide insight when you need it.
Having open conversations about mental health goes a long way in tackling stigma. You can start the conversation and feel empowered to take charge of your mental health and well-being. Take the pledge to check-in and you’ll receive mental health tips that will help you start life-changing conversations with those around you.