So how do you open up the conversation? This guide will walk you through each step, including deciding who to talk to, how to bring up your mental health, and the best way to ask for the support you need.

Who Should I Talk to About My Mental Health?

It’s totally normal to feel vulnerable when you talk about your mental health. This subject is something that’s hard for most people to discuss openly, partly because our society still has a lot of mental health stigma. That’s why it’s so important to consider which friends and family members you feel most comfortable discussing it with.

Think about your loved ones who make you feel safe, and imagine their reactions when the topic of anxiety or depression comes up. Will they tease you or make a joke about it? Will they try to gloss over it or change the subject? Even if someone loves you and cares about you, they might not be the best person to talk to if you anticipate these situations unfolding.

Instead, choose someone who not only makes you feel safe, but is more likely to have a gentle and supportive reaction when you bring up your mental health struggles. This will make it much easier to be as honest as possible about what you’re experiencing.

How Should I Bring It Up?

Now that you’ve decided who you want to talk about your mental health with, it’s time to figure out the logistics. Here are a few factors to consider when setting up a time to discuss your mental health with a loved one:

  • Setting: The location for your discussion should take place under conditions where you feel comfortable. If you feel nervous about sitting down and talking face to face, consider going for a walk with your loved one instead.
  • Time: Choose a time to talk when your friend or family member can give you their undivided attention. Avoid striking up a conversation under tight time constraints, or when your loved one is feeling distracted or stressed.
  • Privacy: Consider how much privacy you want for your conversation. You’ll probably feel most comfortable if you feel like you can talk without others overhearing you.

As for broaching the topic, it can help to practice what you want to say in advance. Sometimes, the hardest part is just finding the right words to start with. In most cases, a simple sentence or two is enough to get the ball rolling. When you feel ready, tell your loved one something like “I’ve been feeling down lately, and I could really use a friend right now.” Another option would be, “I’m going through a really rough time, and I was hoping we could talk about it.”

These types of words not only indicate that you’re experiencing something difficult, but that your friend or family member’s attention is needed. From there, you can go into more specifics about your current mental health. Explain how you’ve been feeling and the ways it’s affecting your life. It can help to provide specific examples if you’re comfortable doing so. The more honest you can be in this moment, the more they’ll be able to understand and empathize with you.

What’s the Best Way to Ask for Mental Health Support?

Finally opening up to a loved one about your mental health can be very freeing. Many people feel less alone when they have someone to talk to about their mental health struggles. But at this point, you’ve only completed the first half of the conversation, which is being open about your experiences. The second half is asking for support. In most cases, a family member or friend will express their concern after you’ve opened up. They’ll want to know how they can be there for you. So before you talk to them, it helps to think about what type of help you need, who can provide that support, and how you’d like to ask for it.

For example, you might want to start talking to a therapist about your anxiety, but the process of figuring that out makes you feel even more anxious. In that case, you could ask a family member to help you find a therapist, figure out the costs and potential insurance coverage, and set up regular appointments for you. Another type of help you might need is someone who will check in with you regularly so you feel less alone. Maybe there’s a friend you could ask to send a text every morning to see how you’re doing or just to remind you that you have their love and support.

Some people feel a little uncomfortable asking for help from their loved ones in these situations. If it’s easier, you can offer a few suggestions and ask which type of support they’d prefer to give you. It’s also okay to let them know they can think about it and let you know later whether they have the capacity to support you in the way you’re asking. Just remember that many people actually appreciate having concrete examples of the type of support you need and will be eager to offer their help. We all need to lean on our support system at one time or another, and being there for our loved ones during tough times can deepen our relationships in meaningful ways.

What If I Have No One to Talk To?

Maybe you don’t feel like any of your friends and family will offer the type of support and care you need. Or perhaps you just feel too nervous to talk to your loved ones about your mental health. That’s okay. There are other ways you can get help and connect with a support system.

Start by talking to your doctor and discussing possible treatment options. Then, search for support groups in your area. If you need immediate help in a crisis, want referrals for treatment options, or simply need someone to talk to, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357). This line is free, confidential, and available 24/7, 365 days a year.