How to Have Conversations About Mental Health

Posted: February 17, 2022 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 5 minutes

How to talk about mental healthTalking about mental health can be scary and difficult, but reaching out to the people who care about you can be the starting point to helping you better understand the fine print of what you’re going through. Sometimes it may seem impossible to know where to begin when talking about mental health, so here are some tips to help you get an idea of how you want to direct the conversation depending on who you’re talking to.

Three Conversations on Mental Health

With Your Parents or Caretakers

Talking to your parents, or whoever takes care of you, can be a stressful conversation to have. You may wonder if they will take you seriously, or if they will be disappointed. Maybe they are a part of your mental health struggles. You can express to them that even though you hear what they are saying about your mental health, dismissing it does not make it any less real.

Write a letter or send a text if you are not comfortable with a face-to-face conversation. Be sure to research your symptoms or condition online and give them information so that they can have an idea of what you are going through. If you do decide to have a face-to-face conversation, make sure you are in a safe space. You can also write up a script with what you are going to say and practice it to help you feel more comfortable.

If you are worried about how they will react, either sad or disappointed, express your feelings about that beforehand and that you hope it will help them respond to you better. If you think they will be angry or not believe you, understand that they most likely have preconceived ideas about mental health or they may not know how to deal with it. Be sure to speak up for yourself. If they still don’t understand, it might be time to turn to another trusted adult for help.

If you are subject to any form of abuse or neglect, or if you are unsure if you are subject to abuse or neglect, go to the Child Abuse Hotline to determine how to seek help.

With Your Friends

Again, find a place where you would be comfortable bringing up the subject. Do you want the environment to be noisy or quiet? Crowded or empty? Do you want to be doing an activity together or just sitting down to talk? It might be a little awkward to bring it up, but a good friend will love and support you no matter what. If they don’t react the way you’d hoped, you can follow similar paths to that of dealing with parents who may not fully understand where you’re coming from. Tell them exactly what you’re going through, and maybe give them some ideas of what they could do to help you feel more secure as you move forward.

What about a friend who is part of the problem? You can tell them how you feel and offer them suggestions on how they can change their behavior to help you feel safe and comfortable in order to remain friends, or you can give them the boot. Some people are not worth keeping around in exchange for your mental health.

With Your Doctor or Therapist

Think about what entails seeing a doctor when it comes to mental health. What symptoms are you experiencing? Any preexisting health conditions? Are you thinking about harming yourself or ending your life? If you answered yes to the latter, see a doctor, therapist, or other medical professional immediately. Be sure to brief your doctor or therapist on everything you are experiencing in terms of your mental health. Answer any follow up questions they ask you honestly. Doctors can help get you medication if necessary, refer you to a specialist or counselor, recommend changes to your lifestyle, set up follow-up appointments to check in on you. To learn more about what to discuss with your doctor surrounding mental health, check out this article.

Therapists or counselors can help you work through your mental health. That doesn’t mean they can “fix” you. Talk to them about how you’re feeling, your relationships, what’s bugging you right then, what kept you up last night, your past, etc. Bring up feelings that can be difficult to put into words.

It is important to know if the therapist you’re working with is the right one for you. So before you completely open up, make sure you feel comfortable and trust them fully. Some questions to ask yourself while looking for a therapist are whether or not you feel heard and respected by them, were they active or passive in the conversation, do you feel better or worse during the session, what is the goal or outcome you hope to achieve through therapy, do you feel safe and comfortable with them? Those are some of the questions you should consider when selecting a therapist to talk about mental health with. Here is some deeper insight on what to look for in your therapist.


There is never going to be a “right time” to talk about your mental health, and studies have shown that not only can getting it off your chest be helpful and reduce stress, but it can also put you on the fast track to better managing your mental health and getting the help you need.

If you or someone you know needs to talk to a counselor, contact the Southern Utah University Counseling and Psychological Services office to schedule an appointment. CAPS is staffed with licensed mental health professionals including psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors. The CAPS team provides individual counseling, couples counseling, group counseling and workshops and biofeedback. Regular services are confidential and free to SUU students.