Originally posted on https://www.bayviewrecovery.com/rehab-blog/telling-others-you-have-a-mental-illness/
It can be hard to tell others that you have a mental illness because of the giant stigma surrounding it. You can be afraid that people will treat you differently, be cautious of you, or make you feel inferior. By telling those that you trust about your mental illness, you will help break the stigma and realize that others are dealing with their own mental illness as well.
You may be surprised at how many understanding people you have in your social circle. You should let your friends and family know so that they can let you know that everything is okay and will help you in any way they can. You will find that your stress levels will lower and you will feel a huge weight off your shoulders. Your loved ones can also be very helping in finding you the right treatment or giving you a ride to any appointments. If you go to any support groups for your mental illness, you can bring your friends and family with you so that they have a better understanding of what you are going through.
Just remember that you are the one in control of who you tell. Maybe you prefer to have only your family know if you are still living with them and are on their health insurance. You might also tell your boss if there are certain days of work that you have to miss because of doctors appointments. If you are still not sure who to tell, write a list of all of the people that you would like to tell. Then, make a list of reasons to tell and reasons not to tell. If the reasons not to tell are too big, then you are better off not saying anything. You know that you have told the right person if they still treat you the same despite the big news as your friends and family should love you no matter what.
The time to tell someone of your mental illness is when you are feeling stable enough to have a conversation about this. It should be when you are in a calm environment like if you are having a nice dinner together. You can also tell someone if they have noticed you acting differently and you want to tell them why. If you need to have special treatment while at work because of your mental illness, you should let your boss know. You can practice on your own how you plan on telling people as well as any questions or concerns they may have so that you are not caught off guard and have an answer prepared.
You first tell someone about your mental illness by letting that person know that you have something to say. You can tell them that you feel like they are entitled to know because they are your parent/best friend/co-worker/boss. Let them know how you feel about telling them this news as you might feel nervous or embarrassed to say so ask them not to laugh at you. Tell them about what you have and certain examples of how your mental illness has affected your everyday routine. Tell your friends what you need from them such as someone to remind you to take your medication, keep a close watch on you if social situations make you nervous, or if you could use a hug now and then.
Remember that you do not have to share everything with your peers. If your mental illness caused you to exhibit some very bad behavior that could have been embarrassing or gotten you in trouble with the law, they do not have to know. You can just simply let that person know the symptoms that you normally exhibit and what to watch out for. Be positive about your mental illness in what you learned about yourself and the experiences you were able to have despite the obstacles you may have encountered.
Let your peers know exactly what you want from them so that they do not make you mad by giving you something that you are not asking for. They could be offering you advice but you are not in a position right now to hear it because this is new for you and you need time to adjust or because you feel confident that you know how to treat it on your own. Tell them you just need someone to listen to you instead of trying to fix you. Or there are others who are looking for advice because they feel like they have tried everything else before. Whatever it is, let your peers know that you are the one in control and what they can do for you to make it easier.
You can give your peers books and pamphlets about your mental illness for a better understanding. If you feel like your peers are the type to judge you and feel like they know your mental illness better than you, let them know that no one will ever know you better than yourself. That you are the one living with this so only you know first hand what it is like. By having the courage to tell others about your mental illness, you will help get rid of the shame placed on mental illness and be able to teach others things that they cannot find in a textbook.
Located in Tacoma, Washington, Bayview Center’s mission is to offer clinically-driven programs and services to treat a number of substance abuse disorders along with anxiety and depression using cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, yoga therapy, and more for a successful recovery. For more information, please call us 1-888-570-7154 at as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.