When you’re experiencing a mental illness, it’s easy to feel alone. It might feel like no one understands what you’re going through. You might not even fully understand it yourself! Reaching out can be scary, but there’s no need to suffer through a mental illness on your own.
Right now, hundreds of millions of people all over the world also live with mental illness—or have experienced it in the past. It might surprise you how many of those are people you already know. Many more are willing to listen or want to understand.
There will be some people who just won’t get it, but it’s not your job to convince them—just keep trying to find a support system that works for you. The suggestions below are just that: suggestions. Start with whichever option is most comfortable for you right now. You can always open up to more people later on.
Friends and family
If you already have supportive friends and family, opening up to them can be a great place to start. It can be a huge relief to open up to the people closest to you, since you no longer have to hide what you’re feeling. You can also open up to coaches, teachers, or religious leaders—anyone in your personal life that you’re close to.
Professionals you can open up to about your mental health include doctors, therapists, or peer supporters. If you already see a doctor, that can be a great place to start—and they can help you find a therapist or any other specialists you may need to see. If you’re in school, a school counselor can help you with this.
Support groups are made up of people who have experienced similar things. They can meet in person or online. They talk about their daily lives, struggles, and strategies they’ve used to cope and thrive. It can be nice to feel like you belong in a community, and to hear about other people experiencing the same things you have.
Anonymous help lines
Hotlines, warmlines, online support, or text lines can help, too. These are typically run by trained volunteers or employees whose job it is to listen to those who reach out. Talking to a stranger can help you feel safer about what you’re sharing, and strangers may be able to offer more objective feedback than the people involved in our lives.
What do I say?
If you’re not sure what to say, try writing your thoughts down first. This can help you get your words straight so you know how to express yourself. You can even write a letter to the person, if you find that easier than talking to them. Try using a help line or a support group as “practice” for opening up to friends, family, or professionals that you might feel more nervous about talking to.