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What’s It’s Like to Open Up About a Mental Health Issue

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Hi, can I trust you with…? Lately, I’ve not been myself… I’ve noticed… I am not too sure how to say…

There are many ways which someone who has acknowledged they have mental health issues will approach someone else to tell them. This is probably the hardest step for someone who has acknowledged they aren’t feeling 100%, is to tell someone else what they are feeling. If they have chosen you to speak too, this can be an important thing for them, from everyone they know, they are choosing you to open up to and discuss their feelings. This can however cause some discomfort in the person they have to chosen to open up to, these situations are becoming more common, but it can still be discomforting on how to respond to the individual. I have noticed through my experience and observing these types of situations, that the person who is opening up, just wants to do that, they want someone they feel is close, creates comfort and is non-judgemental of things, to open up to.

The individual opening up would have recently acknowledged the uneasiness in them, and have probably had a lot of internal dialogue before getting to someone else to talk to. They would have gone through all scenarios of what they are feeling, why they may be feeling this, what made/makes them feel this way and when did they first notice. The person will then begin to think of who to speak to. Once they are at this stage, they are still probably trying to make sense of their situation, and what is going on, they may have Googled mental health and looked at a few different sites. By talking to someone else, they are able to bounce ideas back and forth, get it out in physical words, and be able to get some feedback off the other person. They don’t necessarily want answers or turn a social talk into a counselling session, they are probably grateful to have that someone they can talk to, and get a hug if needed, and have some compassion shown to them, as it is also possible they have not shown themselves any compassion and sympathy.

If someone is unsure what to say in similar situations, this may not be the most important part of the interaction, but ensuring to show them that they are being listened to, and actively listened to more importantly. This will help with providing a supportive and reassuring atmosphere for the individual, as they may be also be feeling quite vulnerable at this point depending on their mental health state, as mental health has a vast spectrum from mild to severe.

From personal experience, I wouldn’t suggest trying to give advice but offering up signposts as to where to go, such as going to speak to their doctor, or a helpline, any professional resource which could provide more information on how they feel, and what next steps they have available to them. It is also worthwhile to bear in mind at this point the person may also be feeling scared of their new acknowledgement, as they may now be recognising their thoughts, which may be upsetting to them, and may have also noticed a change in their general mood, and demeanour.

Overall when being approached by someone who wants to open up about their mental health, they want a friendly face, comfort, and reassurance that even though they may not be themselves at present, this isn’t a definite thing, they will be alright. And they will probably want a cuddle or hug, or some form of physical reassurance contact, this is dependent on the individual and how they are. They will most likely want that someone to hear them and it will also be another way of them accepting how they are feeling, if they are telling someone else about their feelings, it makes it more true and physical, and this too can be upsetting for the individual. 

Dale Burden is a correspondent for Psychreg. He holds a dual honours degree in Psychology and Neuroscience from Keele University.


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