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One Topic You Shouldn’t Avoid this Thanksgiving

There are certain topics you may think about avoiding with family this Thanksgiving, but mental health shouldn’t be one of them. If you’re feeling ready to talk about it, there are a number of reasons you may want to bring up your diagnosis with your family; to receive emotional or tangible support, to educate them about what it means, or to feel more understood. If you’re comfortable talking about it, nothing should be off-limits. These are all great reasons to want to share, but it’s important to prepare for this conversation.

Here are some things to consider about telling others about your diagnosis:

Identify a Support Beforehand: Whether it’s your partner, a sibling, or your favorite aunt, it can be helpful to have someone you already know is supportive of you and knows about your diagnosis with you. If you are fielding a lot of questions or aren’t getting the exact reaction you were hoping for, this person can jump in the conversation to model supportive statements and behaviors. Ultimately, the decision to tell others is completely yours and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to do so. If you only feel comfortable telling specific people, feel confident in making that decision too.

Set the Stage for an Important Conversation: You probably already do this without realizing it, but it’s an important tool to use to help your audience know that this isn’t an easy thing for you to discuss, and also let them know what you hope their reaction will be. Saying something like, “I’ve been wanting to talk you guys about something that’s really important to me. I’m a bit nervous to talk about it so I hope you’ll just listen and try to understand. I think telling you will help me to feel better but I need to know you’ll take it seriously.”

Be Ready to Educate: Your family could be a huge source of support for you but they might not know what you need. Think about certain ways that they can provide you with the support you need (if you are reaching out for tangible support). Or, if it’s easier, see if your counselor has any brochures or handouts that you could share with them about your particular diagnosis. Personalizing the mental illness with them may help them to understand it better: “I’m constantly in a state of worry throughout my day. It gets in the way of me sleeping, sometimes it makes me feel completely paralyzed. I’m happy to get together but sometimes the commitment part of it heightens my anxiety.”

The decision to tell others about your diagnosis is up to you. But whether you decide to tell them or not, take a moment to feel proud of yourself. You’ve reached out for help which takes courage and you’re taking actions to live your life in a healthier way.