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How to talk to your friends about your mental health

If you’re reading this right now, there’s a good chance you’ve probably struggled with something—anything—in your life. For many teen girls, that struggle comes in the form of mental health (depression, anxiety, ADHD, SAD, etc.). If you struggle with any mental health disorder, you know that it's a touchy subject that can often be difficult to talk about. It’s hard to know when you should or shouldn’t confide in a friend about it, too. Some often think: "Will my friend judge me for this? Will they support me? Will talking about this bring positivity to my life?" Put plainly, confiding in others about mental health isn't easy, but we’re here to help. Here are a few pieces of advice that may get you to open up about your struggles. 

Do I have to tell others about my mental health?

The most important thing to know is this: you do *not* have to share your mental health with others. For some people, mental health is a very private matter and is better dealt with among family members than peers. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your mental health with your friends, do not feel obligated to do so. However, for some people, talking to others acts as a form of therapy. The decision is totally up to you.

Which friends should I talk to about my mental health?

If you've decided you want to talk to your friends about it, figuring out which friends to talk to can be difficult, too, so it’s important to think this through. If a friend is trustworthy and supportive, they will likely be a great person to open up to. You want to confide in someone who will not only understand, but will also offer guidance, support and positivity. Having those three things in a difficult situation can often help you have a clearer mind. It’s also important to make sure this person will keep your words private.

What if my friend judges me?

If you’re worried a friend will judge you, this probably isn’t the right friend to talk to. Again, make sure to talk to someone you can trust. But also keep in mind that mental health is not a “problem,” so if your friend is a good friend, they shouldn’t judge you.

How do I actually tell my friend about my mental health?

If you’re ready, ask your friend if they have a moment to talk about something personal. Then, get settled in a space where you are comfortable talking freely. Start by explaining that you want everything to remain private and you are looking for support and guidance. You can then explain exactly what you’re going through. Once you’ve explained everything, ask if they don't mind being there when you need her in the future. Once they understand, they will want to help.

How often should I talk about this with my friend?

If you’re really struggling with something, it's a good idea to update them regularly. Have you been feeling better? Have you gotten the tools you need to work through this? Are you struggling with something completely new? If things are really difficult you might need a lot of guidance from your friend, and that is OK. Just remember: you have a lot of other awesome things in common too, so talking about those topics instead can be a good way to focus your attention away from your problems. No matter what, let your friend know how much you appreciate their support and friendship.

Do you have a friend you always go to for guidance? How do they help you with your mental health? Tell us in the comments below.

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by Julia Selsky | 7/25/2016
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