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How to talk about your mental health concerns

6-minute read

For urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you need immediate help or are at risk of harm to yourself or others, call triple zero (000).

Key facts

  • Mental illness can be hard to talk about, but it can be helpful to tell people you trust.
  • It's a good idea to think carefully about who you will tell, and when would be the best time.
  • Some people might react badly or view you negatively when they find out you have a mental illness. If this happens, take the time to get the support you need from people who will support you.
  • Learning more about your condition and talking to mental health professionals may help you manage your situation better.
  • Help is available, and there are free telephone and online services that can help you.

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.

If you're not sure how to start the conversation, you might find it helpful to talk to a health professional first. 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 on 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 plan the conversation:

  • Explain your health issue in a clear way.
  • Share only the 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, here are some steps you can take:

  • Find a place where you can have privacy.
  • Make sure you both have enough time to talk.
  • Prepare examples of how your mental health affects you.
  • Let them know the details you want kept private.
  • Be clear 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, consider these tips before you start the conversation:

  • 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.
  • Consider discussing how your mental illness affects your everyday life, and how it might affect the relationship.
  • Practise what you want to say beforehand with someone you trust, or say it out loud to yourself.

How can I deal with any stigma?

If you have a mental illness, you might find that some people see you negatively. This is called stigma.

This stigma can be difficult to deal with. Learning some facts about your condition and talking to mental health professionals may help you deal better with the effects of stigma.

Where can I get help?

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

None of the services listed above is a crisis service. For urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you need immediate help or are at risk of harm to yourself or others, call triple zero (000) now.


Beyond Blue (Talk about it), Heads Up (Telling your story), SANE (Reducing stigma), Relate UK (How to tell your partner about your mental health problems)

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

Last reviewed: September 2022

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