How To Have “The Talk” About Your Mental Illness

Reader’s Digest – Best Health

One in five adult Canadians will be diagnosed with a mental illness in the course of their lives. Its impact is widespread, affecting not only the individual who is struggling but also colleagues, friends and family members. Given that it touches so many, we need to normalize mental illness by owning it, just as we would if we suffered from diabetes or heart disease.

In my private practice, I often work with clients who struggle with the stigma surrounding mental illness. Many of them need to be reminded that, although dealing with mental illness can be difficult, it does not define them. You are so much more than your diagnosis. It is not who you are. Admitting that you are struggling takes courage, motivation and encouragement from family and friends, and it’s the first step in releasing you from the shackles of your illness.

You don’t have to be held hostage by depression and anxiety. With the right treatment, medication and support, there’s light at the end of the tunnel and the opportunity to lead a healthy, happy, judgment-free life.

-Lisa Brookman, a clinical psychotherapist

Why You Should Give People The Benefit of The Doubt
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, but it wasn’t until recently that I became vocal about it. Admitting that I struggle with my mental health was daunting at 
first – I was afraid that I might feel exposed and that people would look at me differently. 
I was also concerned that my professional reputation would be compromised and that I 
might lose the respect of my community and my family.

But in the end, all of my fears proved completely unfounded. Rather than disrespect or contempt, I’ve felt only love, support and gratitude. Every time I’m candid about my mental health, I’m thanked for my honesty. By coming forward with my story, I’ve learned that there’s strength in vulnerability, along with a community of kindred spirits looking to connect, share and feel understood.

Find a way to connect. Join a support group and talk about it. Be proud of your courage, and reap the benefits of feeling love and acceptance. Everyone deserves to lead a happy, productive and fulfilling life – some of us just need a little help getting there.

Sharing our stories is the first step in getting that help, and there is no shame in that.

-Elizabeth Wiener, an educator who lives with depression and anxiety

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