Talking About Your Mental Health

woman on her phone
By Guest Author
Posted by: Unison

Chances are you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health. In fact, approximately 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. Especially now as we find ourselves in another lockdown, whether it’s loneliness from isolation, substance abuse, or anxiety and depression, people are suffering now more than ever before. 

When you’re struggling, speaking up can be hard, and even harder to know how to approach the conversation — who to talk to and what to say, but reaching out is the first step to feeling better. Talking about your mental health issues may not be easy but it’s a vital part of getting the help you need. 

Getting Started

Talking about your mental health is incredibly important when it comes to getting the right support for you and with the right preparation the conversation can be easier than you think it might be. It’s common to feel unsure, and to wonder whether you should try to handle things on your own. But it’s always ok to ask for help – even if you’re not sure you are experiencing a specific mental health problem.

There’s no right way or best way to talk about mental health issues, but having a plan can help make the process less overwhelming. Here are a few tips on how to talk about your mental health. 

  • Write down what you’re feeling. Journaling for example is a good way to help organize your thoughts before having difficult conversations. 
  • Research. Look up some online resources that you can share or refer to when talking about what’s going on.
  • Give a heads-up. Once you’re ready, let the person you’re speaking to know that you’d like to have a serious conversation and ask them to set some time aside. For example you could say, “Hey, there’s something I want to talk to you about. Do you have some time tomorrow to talk, just us?”
  • Establish an ask. Your “ask” is the thing you would like most from the person that you’re opening up to. Would you like for them to provide more emotional support? Simply listen to you talk without interruption or making suggestions? Your ask might be as simple as them helping you make copayments for your therapy or medication. The possibilities are endless.

Having an idea of what you want to walk away from the conversation with gives you structure and direction, which can be grounding and therapeutic.


Who Can I Turn To?

There’s no ‘right’ first person to talk to. What’s important is finding someone you feel comfortable opening up with, and who you know will listen. 

  • A trusted confidant such as a close family friend, relative or another adult you feel close to. Talking to people who you can rely on to be understanding and supportive early on will help you practice and gain confidence.
  • Your doctor, a therapist, or another mental health professional. Your doctor is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health. They could make a diagnosis, offer you support and treatments, refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or recommend local support options.

You May Encounter Someone Who Doesn’t Understand.

While it’s likely that a person will know someone who has struggled with their mental health, they may not understand what it’s like- especially if they haven’t struggled themselves.

It can be discouraging if you work up the nerve to speak up and are then told to “get over it”, “stop being silly” or “you worry too much.” Try to explain how it is really having an effect on your ability to live a healthy and happy life and you aren’t sure how to make things better. If for some reason the person you chose to talk to still isn’t understanding, someone else will. Think about someone else you could talk to that would give you the help you need. Don’t stop or go back to ignoring your situation or struggling alone.


Setting Boundaries

Once you start talking about your mental health, it’s important to set some boundaries for yourself. You don’t want your mental health to define you, so it’s important to decide who you want to talk to about it, and how much.

  • Know your audience. Being selective about who you talk to will help you stay in control of the conversation. 
  • Don’t over-share. Being honest and open about your mental health is important, but it’s not an all-or-nothing situation. It shouldn’t be the focus of every conversation. 

Seeking help isn’t always easy, especially when you’re not feeling well. It can take time and may not be straightforward. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and that you deserve support

Talking about mental illness is a process, but sometimes there are situations when you need to find help right away. If you are in crisis, don’t wait. Your safety is the most important thing. Tell a health professional immediately if you are:

  • Suicidal or thoughts of suicide
  • Afraid of causing harm to yourself or others
  • In any kind of immediate danger


If you’re struggling, a mental health professional can help. Reach out to a counsellor or therapist for support. The Unison Fund provides free and confidential counselling services for registered Canadian music-makers and their immediate family in need of help. Call 1-855-9UNISON to access our resources and support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.