Why we should talk

Don’t you know this too? – Someone greets you with a “Hey, how are you?”, and your response is all too automatic: “Good, how are you?”.
Let’s be honest, no one feels good all the time. But in everyday life there is often no room for long conversations about negative feelings and personal problems. Plus, we may fear to be misunderstood if we did share what’s on our mind – what feels real and inescapable to one person might seem weak or lazy to others. In truth, many of us are afraid to show that we are vulnerable; that we are going through a difficult phase or are mentally ill – even in front of people who are close to us and whom we trust.
And why? Because, for many of us, it is still a taboo topic to talk about mental health and mental illness.
This is very unfortunate, seeing that we all have a mental life; we all have problems we struggle with and most of us probably know someone who is dealing with some sort of mental health issue. This also means that we can all help – whether we are directly affected or not – to make space for this topic in our everyday life.

Why is the Psyche a taboo-subject?

There are many different reasons why we find it difficult to talk about mental health and mental illness.

Many feel that society sees being mentally ill and being weak as one and the same thing. Maybe they have been raised or told that they must pull themselves together and be strong to ever be successful and happy in life. People may think that they must cope with all their problems on their own – after all, others manage to take care of themselves.
These views can lead to immense pressure, and people might even reproach themselves for not being strong enough to deal with all situations on their own. It may also lead to fear of being found out about your mental health issues.

For some people, the idea of having a mental illness is very strange. They might only know people with a mental illness from films, or because of rumours and bad talk about other people. Some may think that people with mental illness are “crazy”, “insane”, or even “dangerous”. In some cultures, people may see a mental illness as a sort of punishment for having done something wrong. If one is used to such a belief, it can be difficult to understand yourself and others, not as a stigmatized “mentally ill person”, but as a human being with human problems.

Should I, or shouldn’t I?

Even People who know a lot about mental illness and are open and non-judgmental towards others can have difficulties to admit or talk about their own issues. This may be because we often see our ailments in relation to others and push them aside – feeling that we “aren’t in the right to feel overwhelmed”, or that others have it much worse. It may be that we are absolutely sure that no one would understand us, even our best friends or family. Or sometimes we just don’t want to burden our family and friends with our problems, or we feel overwhelmed with the worries that others (might) have about us.

Maybe there are other reasons why you have been reluctant to talk about mental health problems – but you will realize soon enough that you are not alone with these fears. The good news is, that by learning more about mental health and illness, you will surely grow more confident about how and with whom you can talk about it.

No Turning back?

When you realize that you have mental health problems you should not try to ignore them and hope for them to go away on their own. In fact, if one tries to push issues aside and tries to avoid being faced with them, they can get worse or even lead to other problems and consequences for daily life. It is best to try to deal with them. They will not get worse if you find out about them and start talking about it. You alone can decide how much you want to tell others and to whom you want to talk. You alone also decide whether to professionally clarify if a mental disorder lies at the root of your suffering. Don’t worry about a diagnosis, as it is a natural part of the first sessions of therapy and only serves to find out how best to help you. Furthermore, you can decide what kind of therapy suits you best, and where you see the most potential for your personal healing. You can also personally decide what feels like an achievement regarding your mental problems and what does not. Keep that in mind when you confide in someone else. This also goes for anyone who gets told about someone else’s mental health problems – you alone can decide how much help you can offer and at what point you might need professional support in getting help.

If you want to inform yourself about mental illnesses on the internet or exchange information with others, regularly ask yourself whether what you are reading and listening to is helping you or harming you. Unfortunately, there is a lot of content on the internet that can be seen as so-called "triggers". This means that it can perpetuate anxiety or negative thoughts in people with mental illness. These can include pictures and stories of self-harm, or even very accurate descriptions of how others suffer and feel – especially if the described experiences are only negative. On social media, people are now often warned before triggering content is shown. Unless you are feeling well, avoid this content - don't click on it, don't read on if a text makes you feel bad, and close the page if you are shown an image you don't want to see.
Also, as with any other topic, you should only believe trustworthy websites and people when they tell you about mental illness. A good source of information will not scare you but will give you comprehensive information about all the important aspects. There are many trustworthy websites and support services where you can get and share information about mental health without coming across false or triggering information. 

Are we ready yet?

Whether you want to talk about your mental health problems, or you are wondering about how to start a conversation with someone you are worried about: The most important thing is that you treat each other with respect and listen. If you take each other seriously, you can't say anything wrong – and even if a misunderstanding arises, you can clear it up with an honest conversation. You and your counterpart always have the chance to ask questions, but to also say if you don't want to talk about a certain topic. In the end, you will probably both feel better because you are no longer alone. You understand each other better and you now have someone by your side whom you trust and with whom you can walk this path together.