Explaining a diagnosis

Due to the stigma around mental health, it can often be difficult to tell family, friends, colleagues and other loved ones about your diagnosis and the challenges you face; you may be worried about what they will say or think, or perhaps you’re worried they may ask questions you don’t know the answers to. Whilst it is true that not everyone will understand and support you, most people will, and choosing who you tell and when you tell them is your decision and in your control.  Not everyone needs to know about your mental health challenges, in the same way that if a person had irritable bowel syndrome, they wouldn’t need to share this information with everyone.  But sharing it with someone can be a great way to get support.

A lot of the stigma surrounding mental health often stems from a lack of understanding – both other people’s and your own. Before you choose to share with other people your mental health challenges, it may be helpful to better inform yourself about your diagnosis and possible treatment options; you can discuss this with your GP or other mental health professional, as well as using online support sites, such as this website and Mind.  This would then help you to answer any questions your family, friends and colleagues may have, but it will also help you to understand yourself better, and help you to make decisions about your next steps.  For close support, find relevant articles, stories, etc. that highlight similar difficulties.  Write down your diagnosis, what it means to you, how it impacts upon your life, and what the person you’re telling can do to help.

When you do decide to tell someone, try to remember that their reaction to what you tell them may not be a full representation of what they think or feel. For example, some people may react with shock or not take it in at first – this won’t necessarily mean that they think badly or differently about you, it’s perhaps the first time they’ve heard someone talk about mental health and they’re unsure of how to react or what to say.  It may also be because they feel worried about you or perhaps your news has struck a chord with something in their own life. Whatever their reaction, try to have a discussion about it at some point and encourage them to ask questions and be open with you about how they feel.

It can be a difficult journey for everyone involved, but sharing and having support from friends, family, loved ones and colleagues can offer so much in helping a person with their recovery.