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Mental illness: Let’s talk about it

I’ve been blessed to have many meaningful conversations on mental health and mental illness over the past year with giving, compassionate people who have shared their insights and knowledge with me on numerous topics within the subject.

But oddly, outside of this blog and the work I do with Help & Hope, I can’t remember a time when I initiated a conversation with someone who has a mental illness and just talked with them about their illness and what it’s like living with it.

For all I’ve learned, I still shy away from what feels like an imposition on others - asking them to share personal experiences that they may not want to talk about.

That may be because there’s still a lot of stigma around mental illness, or it could be the fear of stigma - more than the reality - that keeps me from saying, ‘Hey, what’s it like living with depression?’

Or, bipolar disorder.


It’s something I’m working on because I know that to truly erase stigma around mental illness, we all need to become more comfortable talking about it.

I’m not there yet. I think collectively, as a society, we’re not there yet either, although some brave souls are valiantly leading the way.

In the meantime, any chance to learn more about how to start positive conversations on difficult subjects is helpful and there are plenty of opportunities out there.

This one, for example from NAMI Massachusetts, looks at ways family members can help strengthen positive motivations around change through dialogue with their loved ones.

Dr. Emily Kline, Director of Psychological Services at the Wellness and Recovery After Psychosis Program at Boston Medical Center, will discuss the practice of a technique called motivational interviewing and how family members of people with mental health diagnoses can use it to improve their communication with their loved ones, according to NAMI’s description. Motivational interviewing, NAMI says, can help enhance people's motivation to make healthy changes, and in this workshop, Dr. Kline will teach participants “how to use these skills to have more productive conversations with loved ones about a variety of topics.”

The virtual workshop is tonight from 6-8:30 p.m. If interested, sign up here.

Or, for a broader conversation on mental illness and how to talk to people about it, join Help & Hope’s June 16 sneak peek screening and discussion of MYSTERIES OF MENTAL ILLNESS, a new PBS series exploring mental illness.

RSVP here.

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