Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

How to talk about your mental health concerns

4-minute read

Mental illness can be hard to talk about. Letting your friends, family or employer know could be a positive experience or you might worry it will bring up more problems. That’s why it’s important to think carefully about whom to tell and when would be the best time.

Why tell anyone about my mental illness?

If you’re suffering from a mental health problem, such as depression, it can be very helpful to tell someone you trust. When people understand what you are going through, they can help by supporting you. You might find it helpful to talk to a health professional first - and there are also many mental health resources available.

They can guide you in the right direction and help you plan what to say.

How do I start the conversation?

Just thinking about how to start the conversation about your mental health concern can be overwhelming. It might be helpful to think about some common do's and don'ts of discussing mental health issues. Below are some suggestions for how you can talk to the important people in your life.

How do I tell my employer?

Your manager, human resources department or union may be a good place to start when speaking to your employer. The Heads Up workplace disclosure tool can help you:

  • make sure you can explain your health issue in a clear way
  • only share details that you are comfortable with
  • think about where and when is the best place to tell your employer
  • have a plan in case the conversation becomes negative or you get upset.

How do I tell my friends?

Choose which friends you want to talk to and which ones you don’t. Try to tell only people you think will be supportive. When you are ready:

  • find a place where you can have privacy
  • make sure you both have enough time to talk
  • prepare examples of how your mental health concern has affected you
  • let them know the details you want kept private
  • be clear with people about when you want their advice and when you just want them to listen.

How do I tell my partner?

Think about how long you have been in your relationship. You don’t need to tell someone you just started seeing, but it might be best not to leave it too long. When you are ready:

  • find a time when the other person is best able to receive the information
  • find out about their attitude towards mental illness
  • don’t disclose everything at once
  • practise what you want to say beforehand with someone you trust.

How to deal with any stigma

If you have a mental illness, you might find that some people see you negatively. This stigma can be difficult to deal with. Learning some facts about your condition and talking to mental health professionals may help you deal with it better.

Where to get help

There are also many services that can help with advice about talking with your employer, family or friends:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

How to talk to young children about mental health | Queensland Health

Talking to children about mental wellbeing and health from a young age can help them understand their emotions, develop resilience and reduce stigma about mental illness.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Talk about it - Beyond Blue

It’s hard to get through anxiety and depression by yourself. Find the right person, find the words and take action.

Read more on Beyond Blue website

Finding a mental health friendly doctor

Mental illnesses and psychological distress are difficult things to talk about. It is important for sufferers to find a general practictioner (GP) who is knowledgeable, skilled and helpful and with whom they feel comfortable to share private details about their health.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

What is Mental Health & Mental Illness | headspace

What is mental health? Understand the difference of good mental health, and signs of any problems. Learn more about the affects of mental health and how you can get help from headspace

Read more on headspace website

Mental illness & the workplace

Managers and employers have an important role in supporting workers with a mental health issue

Read more on SANE Australia website

What is mental illness?

Quick facts:  Mental health issues can involve a range of challenges with mood, thinking patterns, sleep troubles, physical health, and relations...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Fact vs myth: mental illness & violence

This factsheet addresses some of the most common myths about mental health issues and violence. People living with mental illness are no more violent...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Understanding mental health | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Information on mental illness stigma. How it affects people living with mental illness and how you can reduce mental illness stigma.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Caring for somebody with a mental illness | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Information for carer’s of people with mental illness including the rights and role of a carer; how to support themselves and information about additional supports available.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Why does my parent have a mental illness? - COPMI

About the causes of mental illness, and what to do if you're worried you may have a mental illness or mental health problems.

Read more on COPMI – Children of Parents with a Mental Illness website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.