Talking to family about mental illness

Talking to your family about mental illness can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never really had conversations about mental health. However, speaking up can help you cope with your illness and make them understand what you’re going through. Here’s how you can start a conversation about mental illness.

Educate them about your mental illness/symptoms

Mental illness stigma has led to a lot of myths and misconceptions. This could be the reason why parents and elders might not fully understand what mental illnesses are or what the symptoms you’re experiencing mean. For example, they may interpret someone who is depressed as being moody or difficult. It’s important to raise awareness about mental health and illness, so that we can end stigma and encourage people living with various mental conditions to get help and support.

Be open

If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness and feel that you’re ready to open up to your loved ones, you’ll need to be open about your feelings. Explain what your experience with the mental illness has been like, try not to sugarcoat or downplay your feelings as your emotions and struggles are valid and you shouldn’t need to downplay them to make someone else feel comfortable. If you need help having this discussion, then ask your counsellor or mental health practitioner to assist, or contact organisations like SADAG for direction.

Include them in your mental health regimen

Whether you need to consult with a doctor or have already been diagnosed, it would be beneficial to you and your parents if you involve them in your healthcare routine. You deserve support and if they’re willing to give it, then accept it and allow them to help where they can.

Attend counselling together

Apart from attending therapy on your own, attending a few counselling sessions with a loved one can be really helpful too. This will give them a chance to ask questions and get advice about their concerns from a professional and really get to understand what you’re going through.

What happens if they don’t understand?

Unfortunately, not everyone will be understanding or even be supportive of you if you’re struggling with a mental illness and although this can be difficult to deal with, there are other places where you can find support. SADAG offers links to various support groups that you can get in touch with, and you can also contact Lifeline for counselling.

Living with a mental illness can be really difficult, especially if your family don’t really understand it. Remember that they just need the right information to offer you the kind of support you need. Try not to be too hard on yourself or your loved ones, take it one day at a time.

If you need more advice on starting a conversation about mental illness with your parents, feel free to send me a message. You can also contact SADAG and they can assist you further.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).