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.
Michael's personal story about depression in the workplace

Michael had been working in the mining industry for many years when he experienced depression in his workplace. He shares his experience on the Heads Up website, an initiative of beyondblue:

 

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.

More information

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

Last reviewed: April 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Talking to teenagers

Information and advice on talking to teenagers about your mental illness or mental health problem.

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

Can we talk... about mental illness and suicide?

A sampling of Australian community opinion

Read more on National Mental Health Commission website

Mental Illness

It is important that people who have a mental illness and who find that they have a life limiting illness are able to access the help they need. There are many services that can help if someone has had a mental illness history, or if they are caring for someone with a mental illness. Mental Health and Palliative Care Services can work together to best meet the needs of people requiring palliative care and their families

Read more on CareSearch website

Care coordination for mental health

Care coordination for people with a mental illness

Read more on WA Health website

Talking to toddlers & pre-schoolers

About talking to your toddler or pre-school child about your mental illness or mental health problem.

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

Talking to children of primary school age

Information and advice about talking to children who are of primary school age about your mental illness or mental health problem.

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

Prevention Services and Helplines Search

The Children of Parents with a Mental Illness national initiative (COPMI) creates mental health information and resources for Australian parents with mental illness and mental health problems, their children, families, carers and health professionals who work with them.

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

Recovery and parenting

Information about the concept of 'recovery' for parents who experience mental illness. Understand the individual and also the family context of recovery from mental illness.

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

Talking about mental illness with your child

Information for parents on talking to your child about your mental illness.

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

What are mental health issues? | Professional help | ReachOut Australia

A lot of different factors contribute to various mental health issues, and a whole range of symptoms may indicate that someone has a mental illness.

Read more on ReachOut.com 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 Government of Western Australia, health department logo