KeepHealthCare.ORG – 4 tips for opening up about your mental health, from Lady Gaga’s mom
Editor’s note: Cynthia Germanotta runs the Born This Way Foundation with her daughter Stefani, who performs as Lady Gaga. The nonprofit focuses on empowering youth to create a kinder, braver world and provides mental health resources.
Talking about mental health can be awkward, and intimidating, and just plain hard.
I know that personally, as someone who has struggled to talk about it in my own life — even with people that I know well and trust completely — and I know that from research on the topic. When Born This Way Foundation polled young people about this issue last year, we found that about 9 in 10 young people recognize it as a very important priority, but only about half actually talk about it with anyone — friends, healthcare professionals, and even their families.
See also: ‘You’re not alone’: Famous men are talking about mental health, and it could save lives
If we’re going to end the stigma around mental health once and for all — and do a better job of taking care of our own emotional wellness — that has to change. And that includes how we talk about it with our parents and within our own families.
I get a LOT of questions from parents and young people alike about how to do this, so — in honor of Mental Health Awareness month which is wrapping up next week — I thought I’d share my answers to some of the questions I get most often about mental health.
We don’t talk about mental health in my family. How do I even bring the subject up?
Mental health can be a taboo subject, even within the confines of our own homes. That’s starting to change, especially with parents or caregivers from younger generations, but you don’t have to wait for an adult you trust to bring it up. If you feel like you can’t open up to your parents or caregivers, try another family member, someone at school, or another person in your community.
Like with most things, mental health and emotional wellness are topics that are easier to talk about when it’s not a crisis situation. So start small. Important conversations don’t always need to be Big Talks, they can begin as causal chats over the dining room table, while watching TV, or running errands. Put mental health into regular rotation as a conversation topic in your family so that if (and, for most of us, when) you or a loved one encounters a challenge it will be that much easier to talk about honestly and openly.
Not sure how to bring up the topic? Talk about reading this interesting article on Mashable!
I’ve been having a hard time and I want to see a mental health professional to get help, but I’m afraid of bringing this up with my parent or caregiver.
Asking for help can feel like the hardest part. We might be afraid of “disappointing” the people who love us or worried that we’ll be written off as “dramatic” or “not tough enough.” But remember that thinking like that has more to do with internalized stigma about mental health than how your parent or caregiver will actually react.
As a parent, I’m so thankful when my children are honest with me about how they’re feeling and what they need. It lets me do a better job of being their mom and supporting them! These conversations still aren’t always easy, but we’ve gotten better at them with time and practice.
As challenging as it may be to say the words, asking for help will be one of the best decisions that you ever make. And if the person you first open up to doesn’t react the way you need them to — don’t give up. You can and should still get help. (More on that below …)
I think my parent or caregiver might be struggling with a mental health issue. How can I help them?
It can be challenging to know how to help someone who is struggling with a mental health issue but we can all be the difference for someone in need — even the adults in our lives — and there are great resources out their to help us do it.
Sites like MakeItOk.org have helpful tips for what to say and trainings like Mental Health First Aid are an amazing way to learn how to step up in a situation like this. It’s an 8-hour course offered nationwide by the National Council for Behavioral Health that will teach you how to spot the signs that someone is experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, and how to help them. We should all have these skills – it literally save lives.
(Interested in becoming a Mental Health First Aider? Be a part of our #BeKindBeTheDifference campaign.)
I’ve tried talking to my parent or caregiver but they just don’t get it. What do I do?
Talk to someone else, and then another person if that doesn’t work out. Keep Talking.
Most parents and caregivers love their children and try as hard as they can to support them. But sometimes, they don’t get it right. It doesn’t mean they don’t care, it just means that for whatever reason — whether it’s a generational difference or their own biases or blind spots — they aren’t understanding what you’re trying to communicate or they don’t know how to respond in a helpful way.
But, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first, there are other places to turn — other family members (aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, grandparents); friends’ parents; teachers, counselors, or other staff at your school; healthcare providers including your primary care doctor; neighbors; religious leaders; coaches; community center staff – the list goes on! There are also wonderful resources out there available online, over the phone, and via text. Here’s a list to get you started.
The important thing is to get help when you need it, even if it’s sometimes hard to find. And if your parent or caregiver isn’t able or willing to support you in that process, don’t give up. Someone out there is willing to listen and help.