A recent wellness study published in the Community Mental Health Journal found that young adults who share their experiences of living with mental illness can improve their well-being and feel less stigmatized. Speaking up about your mental health challenges is a crucial step towards acceptance and taking necessary action.

Coming out about mental health can be a difficult and intimidating process, but it is also an important step towards healing and finding support. If you are considering coming out about your mental health, here are some tips for taking the first steps:

Understand and Self-Reflect

Understand and acknowledge what you are experiencing and its potential impact, if any, on your personal and professional life. Is it a short phase that will go away in a few days, it is a longer but episodic disorder or a chronic condition?

Educate yourself about mental health

It can be helpful to learn more about the specific mental health issues you are dealing with. This can help you understand your own experiences and feelings better, as well as give you the vocabulary to communicate about your mental health with others.

Find a safe and supportive person to talk to

It can be scary to open up about your mental health, so it is important to find someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to. This could be a family member, friend, or therapist. Discuss your plan with your mental health practitioner or therapist to help you take the first step.

Don’t forget self-care

Taking care of your mental and physical health is foremost even if you have some difficult conversations to take care of. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right and engaging in activities that bring you joy.

Timing is important

While you don’t owe it to anyone to disclose personal information, timing is important if you are ready to have a discussion with friends and family. Consider who you want to share the information with and find a time and place where you feel most safe and comfortable.

In the workplace

You are not obligated to share your diagnosis at work unless it impacts the workplace directly or you are requesting some accommodations. If you are taking medication that makes you drowsy in the morning, or if your energy peaks and falls at certain times, there might be changes in the schedule you might want to request. If you require to work from home or in an area with fewer distractions/noise, it makes sense to share some information with your immediate bosses to make the concessions.

When it comes to disclosing at your workplace, don’t wait until it becomes a problem to ask for accommodations. Be proactive in communicating if you will fail to achieve expectations because of your diagnosis.

Don’t downplay your challenges

It is important to keep your conversation concise and specific but don’t downplay your emotions. We are hardwired to make serious things seem lighter than they are but that can undermine the seriousness of the challenges around mental health. It is useful to communicate what you are feeling is beyond “sad” or “low” to demonstrate its impact on your life.

For instance, instead of saying “I have been feeling sad lately” you can say “I feel weighed down all the time and no matter how hard I try, I cannot shake off the feeling of despair. It’s not just sadness but a complete lack of motivation and an inability to find joy in things that used to bring me happiness. I struggle to make decisions or focus and I feel exhausted and hopeless even when I haven’t done anything physically taxing.”

Be prepared for a range of reactions: It is possible that some people may not understand or may not know how to respond when you come out about your mental health. It is important to remember that their reactions are not a reflection of your worth or value as a person.

Be prepared for a range of reactions

Most people will be supportive when you disclose your challenges to them. But often, the conversation may not seem to go as planned. Don’t let these setbacks dishearten you. Sometimes people need a little more time to adjust to new information.

Seek professional help

If you are struggling with your mental health and are finding it hard to cope, it may be helpful to seek the support of a mental health professional. A therapist or counsellor can provide you with a safe and supportive space to work through your feelings and develop coping strategies.

Coming out about your mental health can be a challenging process, but it can also be an empowering and liberating experience. By taking small steps and seeking support, you can find the help you need to live a healthy and fulfilling life.