Continuing the Conversation: Can we always talk openly?

One of the largest problems facing mental health is how we talk about it.  Therefore, when we received the following question from the Reel Teens Pittsburgh Facebook Live Town Hall event we thought it would make for a great blog post.

Can we always talk openly about this?IMG_6937[1]

This is an important question, and one that others have also tried to address. wrote an article back in 2013 about how should we talk about mental health. In the article, asked several mental health experts about how we should go about discussing mental health, and these were their answers:

  1. End the stigma
  2. Avoid connections between criminality and mental illness
  3. But do connect more between mental illness and suicide
  4. Avoids words like “crazy” or “psycho”
  5. If you feel comfortable talking about your own experience with mental health, by all means, do so
  6. Don’t define a person by his/her mental illnesses
  7. Separate the person from the problem
  8. Sometimes the problem isn’t that we’re using the wrong words, but that we’re not talking at all
  9. Recognize the amazing contributions of people with mental health differences
  10. Humor helps, when appropriate and used with skill and sensitivity

Number 5 on the list is extremely important. While it is essential to openly discuss mental health, we must be aware of the cues from others.  For example, we might be comfortable talking about mental health or sharing our own experience, but that does not mean everybody is ready. Also, even if we mean well, it is important to not put pressure on others to tell you anything they’re not ready to talk about. Talking can take a lot of trust and courage. You might be the first person they have been able to talk to about this. If someone doesn’t want to talk about mental health, try not to take it personally. It can be difficult, but it is important to keep trying. Other tips for openly talking about mental health include:

  • Be respectful, compassionate and empathetic
  • Be an active, attentive listener (e.g., make eye contact)
  • Give others the opportunity to talk
  • Be aware of a person becoming upset or confused by the conversation
  • Ask appropriate questions
  • Speak in a relaxed and calm tone

Things to avoid doing:

  • Criticizing, blaming or raising your voice
  • Talking too much
  • Being sarcastic
  • Assuming things
  • Showing hostility
  • Acting superior

One of the keys in reducing the stigma attached to mental illness is education, which often starts with communication.  Communication helps reduce the negative ideas and beliefs surrounding mental illness and those who suffer from it. Therefore, it is extremely important, and encouraged, for us to continue talking openly about mental health conditions. However, words do matter and we have to do our best to avoid stigmatizing statements by following the tips above. Remember, you do not have to be an expert to talk or listen to someone about mental health.

Do you have any of your own tips or suggestions for openly talking about mental health? Do you agree this is a conversation we should be having? Please let us know below if you have any questions or thoughts about the subject of today’s post! 

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

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