adult son and elderly father hug

It’s difficult for some to admit they are suffering from anxiety or depression to themselves, let alone tell a close friend or loved one. Saying the words out loud can prove to be a terrifying feat — the action alone can make the diagnosis feel much more real, when the person affected may actually want to try to hide or forget about their illness.

Despite mental health awareness having increased over the past few years, it’s still difficult for many to discuss depression, anxiety and other related issues with their loved ones, even if they are close to them. Feelings of guilt, awkwardness, or not wanting to be a burden may hold them back from opening up, but being honest and upfront about their struggles can be an important step on the road to recovery.

1. Start the Conversation

Just getting started may be the hardest part of disclosing your depression to your loved ones. You may not know how they will react, or you know that they will not be supportive and try to dismiss your feelings. You may not want to disappoint them and feel that you will let them down. Some individuals may even be afraid that their loved ones will blame themselves for their state of sadness. But try to think past your concerns and remember that depression is REAL and you need to do what is best for you and your mental health journey.

Take the conversation one step at a time. You don’t need to immediately address everything involved in your diagnosis and you have the power to determine what you feel comfortable sharing. You may find that just beginning to open up is empowering and less intimidating than you had originally imagined. Your loved ones’ reactions may surprise you for the better and having them by your side will give you additional strength in your fight. Try not to place unrealistic expectations on your conversation as it is only the beginning, and it may take more discussions to come to a complete understanding.

2.Write Down Your Feelings

If you know that you’re ready to tell your loved ones that you are suffering from depression, but you can’t find the words to say it, try writing your thoughts down on paper first. This method will give you a base to go off of when you initiate the discussion, or you can read the “letter” to them yourself, or give them the paper to read themselves.

Not only is the act of writing your feelings down therapeutic, but it will also prevent you from forgetting what you intended to say or freezing up mid-conversation. You will have time before talking to your loved ones to make revisions and think about what you want to get across to them.

3. Answer Their Questions

Naturally, after disclosing that you have depression, your loved ones may have questions regarding your diagnosis. They will want to understand you better in order to provide you with support and help. Be patient. Going into the conversation well-researched and with answers to some of the questions you predict they will ask can be helpful and put you at ease as you will feel well-prepared.

If you don’t have an answer to a particular question, look it up together or speak to a professional. They may also ask how they can help you through your journey. You can give them an honest answer and set the boundaries you want. Maybe you don’t want to be overwhelmed with texts and calls everyday “checking up on you,” but you can still keep them involved in your recovery. Maybe they can help you find a therapist or be ready to listen on the hard days.

4. Attend Therapy

If you feel that you are too close to your spouse or parents and are not yet ready to tell them, consider seeing a therapist. Getting your thoughts out to a professional can help you manage your illness and may even be practice for starting the discussion with your family. They will also be able to give additional advice for when you open up to your loved ones.

After telling your family, you can invite them to attend a therapy session with you, if you would like. Allowing them to hear a professional’s explanation and advice for healing can help them better sympathize and have the tools to offer you appropriate support. You can leave the session feeling even more unified and bonded as a team, ready to work together to help you overcome depression.

5. Try Again

If the conversation did not go as you wished and you do not feel the support you wanted, give it time and try again. Remember that reliable help is always available and a treatment center, professional, or support group can give you the care you need — and deserve — for your healing journey.

It’s not unusual to feel nervous about sharing your mental health diagnosis with your loved ones, but by doing so, it may feel like a weight was lifted off of your chest.

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