Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be a life changing experience. Talking about it with friends, family, peers and co-workers can help to shatter the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Here are a few points to help you get the conversation started:

Come to terms with it yourself. Figure out your own feelings about your mental illness before you discuss it with others. Tell your story to yourself first and decide what parts you want to tell and what parts you don’t. Then, be confident and honest with whomever you talk to. Be prepared for negative, as well as positive, reactions.

Know the facts. Find out as much information about your mental illness as you can so that you are able to answer any questions in a factual manner.

Decide who you want to tell. Just because you decide that you want to tell others about your mental illness doesn’t mean that you have to tell everyone you know.

Decide how much you want to tell. Your personality will dictate how much information you share with others- some people are naturally very open, whereas others tend to be more private. You will likely tell more (and different) information to your close friend than you would to a co-worker.

Don’t forget to tell the positives in your story as well. It can be easy to focus on the negatives, but try to remember to include examples of wellness and healing – such as treatments that have worked, people you have found supportive or new insights that you have gained.

Set boundaries. Let the person know when you want their support or advice and when you just want them to listen. Remind them that you are still the same person you were before, and you will still like to do and talk about all the same things you used to.

Don’t be afraid. Often once conversations about mental illness have started, people will start talking. Don’t be afraid to educate people about mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it.

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