Mental Illness Stigma and Relationships: When to Be Honest

August 14, 2016 Leif Gregersen

Mental illness stigma and when to be honest in a relationship is tricky business. Being in a relationship when you have a mental illness can often make the difference between feeling good about yourself and feeling as though life has no meaning. Unfortunately, sometimes being honest about mental illness in a relationships causes people who believe in the stigma to leave.

One of the hardest situations is when you meet someone and they want to be friends or pursue a relationship, when is it best to reveal that you have a mental illness, if at all? Will the fact that you have a mental illness scare them away, or could telling actually help foster a stronger relationship?

Honesty with Mental Illness Can Be Your Most Powerful Relationship Tool

Not every person who has a mental illness wants to tell people about it, and there are times when it is extremely important to not disclose your disability, often this is the case in the workplace. It can be both difficult and embarrassing to say you hear voices or suffer from extreme highs and lows while trying to get a job or when you meet new people. I have found that if you approach each new person in your life carefully and with honesty
, it can end up being much simpler to establish a new relationship.

I can recall meeting a young woman in adult high school around 24 years ago, and with rsz_digital-art-398342_1280tact, over time, telling her that I had a mental illness. Mental illness stigma did not ruin this relationship. Not only did she share with me that she had family members that had a similar illness, but we also became very close and she is still one of my best friends all these years later.

Sometimes it can come down to deciding for yourself if a person who has a lot of outdated and negative ideas about mental illness are worth having as friends or romantic partners. As in the case above, again and again in my life I have been honest and open with people about my illness and found they understood a lot more than what I thought they would have.

When Can You Be Honest About Mental Illness?

Choose When to Be Honest About Living With Mental Illness to Avoid Stigma

What I have found about being honest about my own mental illness with regards to relationships is the most important thing is to show a person you are worthy of being a friend or partner. If you can do that, and they are worth having as partners or friends, it shouldn't matter at all whether or not you have a mental illness. If they aren't worth having as friends, if they have a very negative view of people just like you, it is really no loss at all to drop them or limit time with these people.

It is also important to remember that if you are going to develop relationships that stands the test of time and life's troubles, eventually the other person in the relationship will learn you have a mental illness. Therefore, it can be important to pick your time to disclose your mental illness in a relationship; show a person you care before telling them, and brace yourself for the worst while hoping for the best. Recovery can be difficult, but if you reach out and establish strong, open relationships, it will happen sooner than you expect.

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APA Reference
Gregersen, L. (2016, August 14). Mental Illness Stigma and Relationships: When to Be Honest, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Leif Gregersen

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