How to Talk About Mental Health
SHU 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 973-275-Help (4357)
Call or text 988 to contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat online at 988lifeline.org.
Or text Talk to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
In order to be a healthy person, we all need to take care of both physical and mental health. Whether you realize it or not, mental health impacts all aspects of life, including academics, relationships, careers, and family. That’s why it’s critical to do a mental health checkup in addition to your yearly physical. The first step is learning how to talk about it. When you keep mental health struggles a secret, you feel more alone. However, if you are suffering, you are far from alone. A recent study of college students shows there has been a 135% increase in depression and 110% increase in anxiety from 2013 to 2021.
So, let’s talk about mental health!
5 Reasons It’s Important to Talk About Mental Health
- It’s part of suicide prevention
- Shows others it’s okay to talk about mental health and it can encourage them to open up
- Builds stronger and deeper relationships
- Normalizes mental health struggles
- Helps others who are struggling and encourages them to seek help
Your Words Matter
When it comes to talking about mental health, think about the words you are using. Although it may not seem important, the way we talk makes a difference and can impact how others feel.
Instead of This
- Brain disorder, brain disease
- I’m/They’re bipolar (a person isn’t their diagnosis)
- That’s really heavy. Let’s talk about something else.
- A depressed/anxious person
- Committed suicide
- That drives me crazy/nuts
- He/she is crazy
- Mental health condition
- I/They have bipolar disorder
- Thank you for trusting me to share that.
- A person suffering from depression/anxiety
- Died by suicide
- That annoys/frustrates me
- He/she has a mental health condition
Don’t use a mental health condition to describe something (“the weather is so bipolar” or “I’m so OCD”). Doing so perpetuates stigma.
What to Say When You Are Struggling
If you have decided to open up to a trusted person about your mental health, below are some conversation starters directly from NAMI. Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone and you only have to share what you are comfortable with.
- "There's something going on in my life that's bothering me. I think I need to talk to someone about it. I feel embarrassed about it, though, so please don't laugh it off or make a joke out of it."
- "I'm not sure if this will make sense. I feel uncomfortable talking about it, but I want to tell someone. Because you're an RA, I hope you'll be able to give me advice on what to do next for help."
- "I think something's wrong because I can't sleep more than a couple hours at night. It's hurting my work and I feel out of control."
- "I've started skipping classes sometimes. I'm worried I'll stop leaving the apartment if I don't get help."
Be sure to tell the person how they can help you. Here are examples:
- "I'm scared to make an appointment because that's like admitting there's something wrong. But I need to see a professional . Can you help me find one and follow through?"
- "I'm not supposed to drink alcohol with my medications. I'm going to try not to drink at parties, but I need my close friends to encourage me and help me keep my social life."
- “I don’t feel safe alone. Can you stay with me tonight?”
When disclosing your mental health struggles, be sure to set boundaries. When you tell someone, many people want to help and are quick to offer advice, whether or not you want it. If you simply want to talk, let the person know you aren’t looking for advice, you just want them to listen and be there for you.
If you or a friend are having serious thoughts of killing yourself or hurting someone else, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.
If You Need Help
You can contact CAPS during regular office hours, Monday-Friday 8:45 a.m.- 4:45 p.m. by calling 973-761-9500 or drop-in to CAPS in Mooney Hall Room 27 to speak with a counselor. Do not use e-mail in an emergency situation. If you have an urgent need to speak with a counselor you may also contact the SHU 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 973-275-Help (4357). This service is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
You can also contact The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988 or chat with them online. The Crisis Text Line is also available. Text SCHOOL to 741-741.
Starting a Conversation With a Friend You’re Concerned About
1. Keep it casual. Get food after class or take a walk and just start a regular conversation. You don’t have to immediately talk about mental health. When you have the opportunity, bring it up.
"I care about you and I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately. You seem more _______ (anxious, depressed, angry, etc.). How are you doing?
2. Offer to help them connect with someone to talk to.
“If you’re uncomfortable talking with me about this, I’d be happy to go with you to CAPs.”
3. If they open up and tell you about what is going on, reassure them that it’s okay to talk and that you are always there for them. Let them know there are resources for them on and off campus and help connect them with those.
“Thank you for sharing that with me. I’m sorry you are going through a hard time. I am always here for you if you’d like to talk.”
4. Follow up a few days after the conversation.
“You have been on my mind. How are you doing? Is there anything I can do for you?”
Check out Seize The Awkward for tips for starting the conversation, what to say during and after the conversation or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s #RealConvo campaign.
- Be patient
- Listen without judgment
- Validate their feelings (“I’m sorry you’re going through that. It sounds really hard”)
- Tell then you care and that they aren’t a burden
- Keep in touch and continue to include them in activities
- Avoid making a diagnosis (only mental health professionals are qualified)
- Don’t minimize their feelings (“It’s not that bad”, “You just need to…”)
- Don't try to fix the problem - just listen and offer support.
Helpful Articles & Resources
- JED Foundation: How and When to Start a Conversation with a Struggling Friend
- Active Minds: Self-Care for Mental Health
- Seton Hall: Self-Help Resources
- Togetherall: an anonymous, online, mental health support community. Joining Togetherall provides something that has always been important for good mental health and wellbeing: a community for shared experiences and mutual support. The platform promotes a sense of belonging and connection through community. It is accessible anywhere, anytime, 24/7. Register using your SHU email address by clicking here.