How to Convince Your Parents Mental Illness Is Real + No, You’re Not Crazy + Yes, You Need Help

By: Judy Khalil

Opening up about your mental health can be stressful as is, but it’s especially difficult when you’re trying to speak to someone who doesn’t understand what you’re going through. It’s even worse when those people are your parents. Whether it’s because it’s not something they themselves have experienced before, because they are new to the concept of mental health, or they’re in denial – they just refuse to admit that mental illness exists and that mental health matters. No matter what demon you’re fighting in your head, you deserve to be understood and supported. You deserve help. You deserve to live a life that doesn’t feel half-sunk in swampy terror.

So here’re a few steps to take to help your parents understand your mental illness:

1) Plan what you are going to tell them

Planning would reduce the chance that you lose words once you start talking. Put what you want to say in bullet points and don’t try to memorize a whole paragraph. The main point you should be addressing is how this mental illness altered your daily life routine. Tangible material like printing out some information about the symptoms that highlight what you’ve been experiencing would make it easier for them to comprehend. As well as articles from prominent psychological institutions and research centers.

2) Think about the different ways the conversation would go so you aren’t be surprised by their reaction                           

Don’t stress yourself out with too much thinking, however it’s always better to be prepared. To save you some time here are some situations you can prepare for:          

        A) Make you feel guilty : They can go like: “we’ve done everything to give you the life you wanted” or “you have everything you need and more: or “we see no reason for you to be feeling that way”.                                                       

         B) Making it about them: They might say: “maybe we didn’t do enough for you to be happy: or “I’m am not a good parent”.      

         C) Diminishing the situation: They can argue that: “you’re just tired have some sleep and you’ll be just fine” or “it’s just stress” or “all teenagers feel this way, it’s just a phase honey”.  

        D) God talk: The discussion might turn to: “maybe you just need to become closer to god” or “it’s the devil’s work, praying more will make you feel better”.

3) Communicate with them.               

 There are several ways in which you can express yourself once you feel ready to open up. You can either discuss it in person or write them a letter, email, or even send a text. However, choosing a good timing for you and your parents plays a huge role when delivering a message. Avoid the time when your parents just got back from work or when you feel like they are not in a good mood. You know your parents best. Also, the right time won’t work if you are not in the right place. Pick the coziest area in your house.

4) Express yourself                 

      It’s important to say what you’re having trouble with, and how it’s affecting you, like: “I feel sad all the time” or “I don’t feel right.” But, don’t get caught up too much trying to analyze or explain why you might be feeling this way. You can just say: “I want to see someone who can help me learn some strategies so I can feel better.” Also, your parents don’t have to understand exactly what you’re going through, you just need them to know that you’re struggling so you can get the help you need.

5) Surround yourself with people who *do* understand                         

Depending on your situation, you may find that your parents will probably never understand your mental illness. In that case, it’s extremely important to make sure that you have someone in your life who does. Handling your mental illness alone is back-breaking, but when you have people in your life who care and understand, it’s a lot less overwhelming.

Know that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. As is often said: “people who are successful in life are not those who don’t have any problems, but those who are good at getting help and rebounding from adversity.”

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