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Communicating After a Loved One’s Mental Illness Diagnosis

When a family member is newly diagnosed with a mental illness, life can be stressful. Emotions run high, behaviors can be irrational, exhaustion is common for everyone. Often unintentionally, someone’s words can increase tensions. Now more than ever, communication is crucial, but it can also be frustratingly difficult. Use these tips to help keep communication open and productive after a loved one’s mental illness diagnosis.

Choose words intentionally. Think about what you want to communicate or what information you need to gather before beginning a conversation. It’s often necessary, for example, to determining what led to a behavior. Directly asking “why…” can sound hostile and accusatory to someone dealing with a diagnosis of a mental illness. Instead, try, “Help me understand…” or “I hear you saying…. This is how I felt about it…” (Read this: Best and Worst Things to Say to Someone Who is Depressed)

It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It. It’s very common to worry about what to say when talking to someone who’s recently been diagnosed with a mental illness. While it is important to use your words intentionally, know that what you say isn’t as important as how you say it. Take care to maintain a neutral tone and to keep your own emotions out of important conversations. It’s okay to step away for a break to breathe and reset when you notice yourself growing angry or otherwise upset.

Remember, too, that mental illness doesn’t take away someone’s humanity. It’s as important as ever to continue to communicate with caring and compassion. The above tips can help you do just that.

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Hannah says, "Getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder is a surreal experience, mainly because we are so unfamiliar with what mental health conditions are. When I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder, it was hard for me to believe it. I knew little about mental health, and everything I knew about bipolar disorder was negative." Take a look to learn how Hannah handled it.

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Thank you,
Deborah

Community Partner Team
HealthyPlace.com - America's Mental Health Channel
"When you're at HealthyPlace.com, you're never alone."
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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, July 20). Communicating After a Loved One’s Mental Illness Diagnosis, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-health-newsletter/communicating-after-a-loved-ones-mental-illness-diagnosis

Last Updated: July 20, 2021
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Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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