Are you struggling with sadness or worry? Talking about it with a friend or family member might seem like the last thing you want to do. You might think they don’t care. Or you might think it’s embarrassing or shameful. However, opening up about it could actually help you feel better.
Why do some people struggle with mental health?
There are a huge number of complex reasons why people struggle with mental health. Consider, for example, just how many things can affect it, like: how much exercise you’re getting, drug and alcohol use, how stable your family life feels, the nature of your personal relationships, your confidence and self-esteem, physical health, how lonely or isolated you’re feeling, whether you’re employed, whether there is a history of mental illness in the family, and many more.
In general, people who are happier and more satisfied with life are less likely to report mental health struggles. Similarly, people who feel ‘connected’ to others and who have more satisfying relationships also tend to be happier.
This doesn’t mean that people with active social lives or who are in happy relationships don’t feel distressed. For example, intense or constant stress such as work stress, lack of sleep, or worrying about the rent or mortgage can affect your wellbeing.
However, people who feel more connected, who feel they can relate to others, and who feel they are understood often feel they are better able manage worries and stresses. Indeed, communication is an important aspect of mental health. People who can talk — honestly and directly — about their mental health (for example, to a counsellor, a friend or a family member) are more likely to feel better about it.
6 ways in which reaching out about your mental health can help
Many mental health concerns and worries don’t need immediate medical treatment. A consultation with a mental health professional helps, of course. However, one of the best things you can usually do is just talk about it to a friend or family member.
1) You might realise that they want you to open up
Have you felt ignored by your friends or misunderstood by your family? Maybe you think that those ‘vibes’ are them rejecting you?
It’s quite likely that they simply haven’t fully realised what you’re thinking or going through. They may sense that something isn’t quite right, but don’t want to push boundaries.
Your friends and family may actually want to know what’s going on — and if that’s the case, they probably want to help too.
If you’re still unsure, think about someone in your life, then try to see things from their point of view. If they were struggling and needed support, would you want to know? And would you want to help?
2) You might also discover that you’re not the only one
Many people feel isolated because of depression, anxiety, stress and other emotional worries. You might even feel ‘invisible’. Those negative feelings might be felt even more intensely because you believe that others don’t care or don’t understand.
However, if you reach out to a friend or family member, you’ll often find that the opposite is true. You may find that others have felt the same way and that they’ve had similar experiences.
By opening up, you may find that people will willingly support you because they’ve been there themselves.
3) You’ll probably feel a lot better once it’s no longer a ‘secret’
It’s normal to worry about what people will say or think if you reach out about mental health. These feelings can feel especially strong if you’re already living with lots of stress or worry.
For many people, having to pretend or hide their feelings can add to the distress.
However, friends, family and those closest to you could turn out to be your biggest supporters. You may find that they are very understanding if you let them know how you’re feeling.
Many people feel better once they talk about it because it’s no longer a secret. They don’t have to hide something that they feel they’ve been carrying around.
4) Opening up could bring friends and family closer together
Closeness means intimacy. That is, having a close connection to someone at an emotional level.
If you open up to someone, you might find that you get closer and that your relationship improves.
This could be for many reasons. At the very least, the other person(s) might understand you better because you finally shared what you’re going through.
Reaching out is a sign of trust that can add to the intimacy of your relationship. If you find that the other person experienced something similar, you will probably find that you can relate better to each other.
For example, say you shut down or feel anxious when you’re struggling. After reaching out you will probably understand each other better. The other person is likely to be more understanding next time they see you feeling a certain way.
5) It will help them understand you better
One of the benefits of opening up to those close to you is that it lets them know how you’re feeling. Next time, when things are tough, they might be much better at picking up on where you’re at.
Asking for help can feel very exhausting. So, it can make a difference to your wellbeing when someone offers to support you when you’re struggling. People might offer support in different ways: it can be simple, like making an effort to listen, or it could be more involved, like taking time out or driving somewhere special together.
If you’ve reached out to people and told them that you’re going through something difficult then they will be better at spotting the signs. This means they will also be better at supporting you.
For example, people might respond better when you are feeling in a bad way. You might find they get less frustrated, that they are better at listening, that they give you space or down-time, etc.
6) You will help others realise that they are not alone
Millions of Australians will experience a mental health condition this year and half of us will experience one in our lifetime. There have been huge improvements over the years in general attitudes to mental health. Even so, talking about mental health can still feel uncomfortable for many people.
It could be tough for some people because they were brought up in a family or household where mental health was not discussed. Some people even believe that talking about mental health is a kind of weakness — or that it brings shame to a family.
There is nothing embarrassing or shameful when it comes to talking about mental health. By reaching out to those around you, you can help others realise what depression, anxiety, stress and other worries are like.
In doing so, you can help them see that there are many people who feel that way. Not only will this help reduce the stigma around mental health; others who are struggling might have the confidence to open up — and feel a lot better about it.
You never know… your example could really help someone who is feeling down and show them that it’s ok to talk about your mental health.
Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.