Updated: Sep 29, 2021
To say or not to say? A missed conversation with your family.
“Mental Health is a hush hush topic in my household. My family does not know I am seeking therapy and I am embarrassed to tell them. I once told a cousin of mine and she asked me if I was crazy and what reason I even had to seek therapy. I can’t even imagine how my family would react, and I’d rather not tell them. I feel like I am living a double life”
- Mukta (Name changed for confidentiality reasons)
Mental health can be a hard conversation to have, especially with your family. You may see them everyday and talk to them regularly, but due to the stigma associated with mental health one often does not address these topics. Even though it is difficult and uncomfortable, starting a conversation around mental health in your household is crucial to you, them, as well as the larger community. They can be your biggest source of support and can walk with you on this difficult journey. But the question is, where do you start? And what do you say?
Below are some pointers you can keep in mind when starting the conversation around mental health in your household:
Understand how much they already know about mental health: Before you take the step to open up, it is helpful to gauge what your family already knows and what their perspectives are on mental health. How do they respond to depictions of mental health on television? Are they supportive or critical of other members of society who have similar concerns? Address the generational gap and try to understand the extent of their knowledge.
Find a comfortable time and space: Is it the dinner table? Is it your living room? Or is it your bedroom? Choose a space you are comfortable in and find an appropriate time. You should have ample time to start this conversation and address any questions they might have. Mentally prepare yourself to initiate the conversation and do it at your own time and pace.
Use metaphors to explain mental health: Explaining mental health via metaphors can make it easier for your family to grasp. Comparing the mind to a messy cupboard, with clothes falling outside and crowding one’s room is a way to explain mental health concerns. Being stuck in the middle of an ocean, and wanting help to swim to the shore; being trapped in a dark room and not being able to turn on the light, are also some metaphors that can be used.
Making comparisons with physical illness: It is helpful to make a comparison with physical illness. If an individual injured himself, he would visit a doctor to patch up the wound. Similarly, a person with a mental health concern also needs professional help to address what they are going through. Bringing forth this comparison can help your family see the invisible scars.
Be honest about what you are going through: Now that you have used metaphors and given them a general understanding of mental health, talk about your specific experience and what you are going through. What do you feel on a daily basis? How difficult is it for you to cope? Are there times when you feel you need help? Having an open conversation can go a long way in breaking down the barriers
Tell them how they can help: Are there some things that your family does or say which trigger you? Are there things that they can do to make you feel better? Can they be more sensitive through their words? Tell them how they can support you and why that would be helpful. It is crucial that they are more kind and compassionate towards you, and acknowledge what you are going through.
Prepare for an unexpected reaction: It’s possible that you might not get the reaction you were hoping for. Your family may not understand, might ask too many questions and might even ignore you. It can be discouraging to speak up and be invalidated. Please don’t go back to ignoring your situation or struggle alone. Take a break if you need it, but you might have to keep having this conversation to bring forth your point of view.
Live by example: Extend your support to family members and friends who have mental health concerns. Continue to invite them to family plans, make them feel understood and remind them that help is available. Seeing you treating others with respect and compassion will encourage others to do the same.
Having that talk is hard, but with every uncomfortable conversation you can address the stigma that exists and help them understand you better. This conversation is the first step in a process, but if you're willing to begin the conversation with your family, it can go a long way in breaking down these invisible barriers.
“I feel like talking to my family about my mental health was one of the best decisions I made. It was difficult at first to get through to them, but eventually they learnt to see things from my perspective. They are now extremely supportive, understanding and respectful. They are sensitive not just to my mental health needs, but that of our entire family and community.” - Sehar (Name changed for confidentiality reasons)
Written By- Mehek Rohira
Your mental health matters as much as your physical health. Don't hesitate to take a step towards your mental well-being. If you’re looking at talking to a professional, book your Initial Consultation with us on https://www.themoodspace.com/freeconsultation or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a step towards bettering your mental wellbeing because you deserve it!