Disclosing Your Depression to Others
One reason to tell family and friends about your depression (or other mental health condition) is to receive encouragement and support, such as assistance in finding treatment or getting rides to your appointments. There is no right or wrong number of people to inform. If you are stressed about making a disclosure, creating a list of the pros and cons of doing so may make you feel better.
One idea is to identify the most supportive person in your life. Who is a good listener or always gives you a hug when you need one? He or she could help you tell everyone else. Informing others is a very personal decision and it may be beneficial to practice disclosure with a professional, such as your therapist. This will allow you to discuss any worries you have about the issues, questions, and comments that may arise and can even assist you in determining who you want to tell.
In personal relationships, disclosing a mental health condition usually has one of three results. The person genuinely accepts your disclosure and things remain the same; he or she is very uncomfortable and ends the relationship; or the individual says he or she is fine with the information and then fades from your life slowly or even quickly.
You can begin the discussion in many ways. One approach is, “I want to talk to you about something important, but I am not sure how to begin. Can you please listen and be patient?” Another option is, “There is something going on in my life that is bothering me and I need to talk to someone about it. I feel embarassed though so can you please not make jokes about it?” If you are talking to a teacher, coach or Resident Assistant (RA), you could say, “I am not sure this will make sense and am uncomfortable talking about it, but I want to tell someone. Because you are a (teacher, coach, RA, etc.), I hope you can give me advice on how to get help.”
Provide specific examples of your issue (for example, “I think something is wrong because I cannot sleep more than a couple of hours at night.” or “I feel like things are getting out of control and I am not sure how to keep myself together.”) and how your friends and family can help you. This will allow you to start building a strong social support network.
Remember that you do not have to share everything. It is okay to answer someone’s question with “I would rather not talk about that right now.” Set boundaries, letting others know when you want their advice and when you would prefer for them to simply listen to you. If they have questions, refer them to a website like PlanDNoVa or of any of the non-profit organizations listed here, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness Northern Virginia. Know that there are many people who likely will feel honored that you shared your mental health condition with them and will be happy to support you in any way they can. #GIRLagenda #StandUpForSomething
Thank you to Dorothy from mentalwellnesscenter.info, who recently E-Mailed suggestions for other resources to add to the website, including this topic!