How to talk to your parents/caregivers about mental health
It’s not always easy to have conversations with parents/caregivers, especially about sensitive topics like mental health. It’s important that we remember that parents and caregivers want what is best for you. However, their lived experiences, biases, fears may show up when you discuss mental health.
Your knowledge about mental health can be an asset to your family. You can play a significant role in educating and supporting your parent or caregiver in recognizing and understanding mental health, which is vital to their wellbeing, and yours.
5 tips to help you talk to your parents and caregivers about mental health
- Be mindful that trauma, both past and present, often affects mental health, which also impacts your overall well-being. Therefore, it will be important to name what has happened or is currently happening in your life with your parent/caregiver so that they can make those connections.
- Acknowledge that your parents/caregivers want you to thrive; however, they may lack the knowledge of how to address mental health issues when they arise. Therefore, you may have to plan how to engage them in conversations on the topic. Share why it’s important that we all take care of our mental health and that talking about it is helpful.
- Have conversations when they can give you their full attention. Begin by telling them how much you appreciate their care for you and all that they have done to ensure that you have a good life, or all they are doing to support you. Remember you know your parent/caregiver best!
- Consider sharing what you have learned about mental health with them. Indicate that it’s a state of being, and at times our mental health can be impacted by circumstances in our lives. Give examples such as moving to a new country, new community, new school, making new friends, etc. Share that there is power in knowing when we’re not doing well mentally, and that seeking support is important just like when we’re not physically well, we get help.
- Share with them that it’s not a weakness to talk about mental health. In fact, it’s a strength to be able to recognize when we are not doing well. Share that being able to talk with them about what’s happening in your life is a good thing and can help you get through the challenge. It allows them to be aware of what’s happening in your life and why you may be acting differently. Explain that this gives them the opportunity to guide and support you in accessing resources or services at your school or in your community.
Keep in mind that:
- Your actions may also remove some of the stereotypes and biases your family/caregiver has about mental health.
- You could be the one that will break the stigma in your home or dwelling, by naming it, by talking about it, by being willing to seek support for your mental health. You will demonstrate that caring for your mental health is no different than addressing your physical health.
- These conversations can be difficult so be gentle with yourself and reach out for help from others (friends, teachers, family/caregivers, elders, members of your community, helplines) to support you if you need it.
- YOU can be the change, you can make the difference. After all your mental health matters!