Mental Health Toolkit: Tips for talking about your mental health 

When you’re struggling in life, the first step to feeling better is finding a way to talk about how you’re feeling. But for a lot of us, it can be hard to speak up, and even harder to know how to approach the conversation — who to talk to and what to say.

There’s no right way or best way to talk about mental health issues, but having a plan can help make the process less overwhelming. Just acknowledging that you need help is a really powerful thing.


Who to talk to?

There’s no right first person to talk to. What’s important is finding someone you feel comfortable opening up with and who you know will listen. For many of us, our GP would be the first person we go to when we’re unwell as your doctor is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health.

A support network outside the workplace such as friends and family is always a good place to start too, but what if your mental health is affecting your work?

You can always speak to your Line Manager, but if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your Line Manager, you can speak to the HR Team. They may know your diagnosis, but they don’t have to tell your line manager or colleagues. You can also make use of our EAP service, which is a 24/7 service offering free and confidential support on a range of topics. Their details can be found on our ‘Support Page’.


Having the conversation

Once you’re ready to talk, plan what you want to say beforehand as when you’re struggling, it can be difficult to articulate how you are feeling. Find a place you feel comfortable to talk, and take courage! Remember how incredibly brave you are by opening up. Expressing feelings is what actually brings us close to other people, so don’t worry that expressing a bad or negative feeling will put people off. Funnily enough, it might bring people closer.


Expect to be asked questions

Some questions might include: How long has this been going on? Did something difficult happen before you started feeling this way? Can you describe what it’s like? You don’t have to answer every question that you’re asked if you don’t want. Remember that the person you’re talking to is probably asking questions to help them better understand what you’re going through.


Now what?

If you’ve made the decision to talk to someone about your mental health, you may be nervous about how things will go and what could happen. It may start with your school making a referral to Occupational Health, or signposting you to counselling. These professionals can help you figure out exactly what’s going on and how to start getting you the help you need.


You’ll probably feel relieved

Being able to open up and share something you’ve been keeping to yourself for a long time can feel like a weight has been lifted. You might learn that the person you’re talking to has had some personal experience or knows someone in their family who has gone through something similar, which will help you to feel less alone.


Be kind to yourself and remember, it takes time to get better. Seeking help isn’t always easy, especially when you’re not feeling well. It can take time and may not be straightforward. You could be going through something situational, which can improve with time to process feelings (for example, grief after the death of a loved one or a tough break-up) or adjustments to your environment, or you could have a more long term mental health issue. Mental health issues are common and treatable; however, you may have to try a few different things to find right type of treatment or combination of strategies that works best for you. It’s important to remember that you are not along, and you deserve that support.