Talking to someone about your mental health problems can be scary. But what should you do if you talk to someone about the issues you’re having and they don’t understand?

Opening up about your mental health can be stressful at the best of times, but it can be particularly difficult when you’re trying to speak to someone who doesn’t understand what you’re going through.

Whether it’s because it’s not something they themselves have experienced before, or because they are new to the concept of mental health and mental illnesses, here’s what to do when you’re talking about your mental health to someone who doesn’t understand:


Try to manage your expectations

Sometimes, people who have never experienced mental health issues find it tricky to understand what you are going through. So manage your expectations, and don’t expect them to fully understand what is going on straight away. This may come with time.

Prepare what you're going to say

Preparing the things that you’d like to say to this person can really help you if you don’t know how to begin the conversation. You could write down little pointers so if you feel yourself getting stressed or upset, you can refer back to the notes you made to help you continue your conversation. It will also help you to be as clear as possible throughout, making it more likely they will be able to understand what’s going on.

Have the support to back you up

Having one or two extra people in the conversation that understand what you’re going through can make things a whole lot easier, even if they don’t talk and are just there if things get a little too much for you.


Ask open questions

Try asking them questions like: “How does this make you feel?”, “do you understand what I’m going through?”, “do you have anything you’d like to ask me?” Questions like these can help both of you reflect on what you need from each other, and gives you the opportunity to work through anything that they may have misunderstood.

End the conversation the correct way

If they still don’t really understand what you’re going through after you’ve had the conversation, it’s OK. Make sure you let the person know that you really appreciate them sitting down with you and listening to what you have to say. It may take them a bit longer to understand, but the main thing is that you maintain an open conversation between the two of you.