How To Open Up To Someone If You're Experiencing Mental Health Issues

Clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist By Daniel Amen, M.D.
Clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist
Daniel Amen, MD, is a clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist, physician, professor and 10-time New York Times bestselling author. He is a double board-certified child and adult psychiatrist and founder of Amen Clinics, Inc.
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Feeling depressed? Experiencing panic attacks? Having obsessive worries?

You're certainly not alone—due to the unprecedented stressors of this year, numerous people are experiencing mental health issues. In fact, a 2020 poll reported that 56% of Americans say that worry or stress related to the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. What's more, many individuals are facing these issues for the very first time.

Whether you've experienced mental health problems in the past or you're struggling for the first time, opening up to others can be highly beneficial. That said, even if you're ready and willing to share what you're going through, you may not be sure how to open up about it to friends and loved ones.

When it comes to talking about mental health problems, there's no rule book, but here are four strategies that can help:

1. Know your goal.

What are you hoping to get out of revealing your struggles? Are you hoping to get support in seeking treatment? Do you simply want a sympathetic ear? Do you want to stop feeling like you have to pretend you aren't hurting? Knowing your goal will help you get what you need from others.

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2. Make time for the conversation.

This isn't something you should launch into the minute someone walks in the door. It's better to say something like, "I have something important I'd like to talk to you about. Can we schedule some time to talk?" That way, both you and your friend, partner, or family member will feel prepared for the conversation.

3. Start with one really great listener.

Rather than making a big announcement at a family gathering, start by talking to one person who's really supportive. This can help you build confidence to speak to others. You may also want to enlist this person to help you share your story with the other important people in your life.

4. Join a support group.

There are many organizations that sponsor groups where you can discuss your symptoms and find out how others in the group opened up to their friends and family.

It can be challenging to open up about your mental health challenges to others, but sharing versus bottling your experience can be very valuable. That said, while speaking to friends and family can be helpful, if you're experiencing prolonged feelings of depression or other symptoms of mental illness, please consider reaching out to a medical professional for help.

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