Disclosing That You Have a Mental Illness, part I: When

mental illness
Credit to flickr.com user Jennifer Mathis. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

[ Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV ]

How open are you about your mental illness? Have you been thinking about opening up to others? Read on to find out when to disclose that you have a mental illness.

When to Disclose

  1. When you’re well – You don’t want to wait until you’re in a dicey situation for the people around you to find out that you have a mental illness. Disclosing when you’ve got your illness under control will give the people you disclose to time to adjust to the fact that you suffer from a disorder.
  2. When you need people to understand – Sometimes, people who suffer from mental illnesses need special accommodations at work or school. Letting friends know the reason behind why you don’t want to hang out with them during a depressive spiral can prevent them from thinking you’ve grown distant. Telling people you have a mental illness is better when it serves a purpose.
  3. Not after a mass shooting – Unfortunately, people equate acts of mass violence with mental illness. The stigma is all too real. Disclosing your mental illness after someone who reportedly has a disorder commits an act of violence might cause the people you’re disclosing to to link your illness with the perpetrator’s.
  4. When you’re ready – Disclosing your mental illness to friends, family, or even an employer is an intensely personal decision. Write down exactly what you want to say, and practice your words, either in front of the mirror or with a licensed professional. Talking to a therapist about your concerns may help put your mind at ease.

All in all, disclosing your mental illness is a process, the start of which is completely up to you. Tune in next week for the second part in this series of three, “Disclosing That You Have a Mental Illness, part II: How.”

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11 thoughts on “Disclosing That You Have a Mental Illness, part I: When”

  1. i’m always debating with myself about how open should i be with my mental illness. on one hand, my issues are caused by chemicals, and the circumstances are not ones that i chose. for those reasons, i feel that i should be able to answer any questions people have. but on the other hand, the symptoms of my disorders are not well understood, and they affect me in personal ways that are challenging for people to empathize with. sometimes, even to me, they feel like reflections on who i am, (i know that this isn’t true, but i feel it anyway) and i feel weird freely talking about things that feel so much like flaws.
    i just told someone why i’m withdrawing from college, (mental illness making things hard) and got into the honest truth, which is hard. i felt good about being honest but worried about being judged harshly.

    1. Rose, this is a brilliant and insightful comment. Disclosing that you have a mental illness is always difficult, for the reasons you pointed out. I’m glad you were brave enough to do so, and I hope the situation turned out well!

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