Share or Save this page

How to Tell Family Members about Mental Health Concerns

Dealing with family stress through respect, communication
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie

Were you recently diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance use disorder or another mental health concern? Talking to loved ones about your mental health may seem difficult. However, we’ve found that family members can be your best support!

Military members are trained to work with others to thrive and accomplish the mission. This concept works for service members off duty too. Outside the military, family members and friends are your support system, and you are part of theirs. Speaking to them about your psychological health challenges and needs may alleviate frustrations and manage expectations.

One way to approach the subject with them is to think about mental health as you would think about physical health and disclose any challenges in a similar way. Below are tips on how to start the conversation. Remember that your health care provider is always a great resource and can offer ideas about how to talk with your family or friends about your specific mental health concerns.

  • Set the tone. Let your loved one know that you’d like to have a conversation about something you’re struggling with before you sit down to talk.
  • Be prepared. Write down a few thoughts about what you plan to discuss to help keep you focused. Also, have some basic information on hand or websites that you may recommend in case your family or friends have questions.
  • Get centered and stay calm. If you’re nervous, take some quiet time before you start the conversation and try a breathing exercise or mindfulness meditation.
  • Ask for what you need. Remember that your family and friends are there to help support you! Let them know what you need, how they can help – a hug, a listening ear or a ride to appointments.
  • Give them time to process. Your loved one might need some time to let the conversation sink in. It’s OK if they need a little space to process.

Looking for more help? Below are a few resources to help you start the conversation and find information for friends and family members to learn more.

Add new comment

DCoE welcomes your comments.

Please do not include personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, phone numbers, addresses, or e-mail addresses in the body of your comment. Comments that include profanity, personal attacks, or any other material deemed inappropriate by site administrators will be removed. Your comments should be in accordance with our full comment policy regulations. Your participation indicates acceptance of these terms.

Please read our full Comment Policy.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.
This page was last updated on: September 14, 2017.