Talking to your parents about mental health 

A drawing of a parent and child on the pavement.

So, you want to be more honest with your parents about your mental and emotional wellbeing.

I know parents don’t always have the best track record when it comes to talking about or understanding issues in this space. Where I grew up, it’s not very common to confide in your parents, or even older relatives, that you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or anything of the like. At best they’ll tell you to just get over it, at worst they’ll accuse you of losing touch with your faith. Neither is an ideal response.

The perception towards mental health and emotional wellbeing is rapidly changing among the younger generations, though. And that’s exactly it, this gap in understanding is a generational one more than anything. Our parents grew up in an era when mental health was heavily stigmatised. Not to say that it still isn’t but I think our views on it is way positive than theirs.

With that, changing the way they think won't be an easy feat but we can always start with baby steps. 

For starters, know that your parents care about you. As an international student, I feel like that’s even more prevalent given the distance. My parents are worried about me all the time and I know it only scares them more when I tell them I’m not in a good place mentally because they couldn’t physically be here to support me. I’m sure your parents are the same too. 

Knowing that has made it a lot easier for me to talk about my mental health with my parents because I know they care but they just don't know how to talk about these stuff. 

I’d usually start off by telling them what’s been – no pun intended – messing with my head. I think they’re more receptive towards that than simply throwing at them “I’m anxious”, “I’m feeling depressed”, or “I need help”. That'll just make them panic or uncomfortable.  

Maybe start off by telling them that you’ve been having a bad day or week or month; that you’ve been finding it hard to make friends; that uni or work has been very demanding. Give them context and then ease into telling them how you feel. 

I was also quite lucky in a sense that when I was starting to have these conversations with my parents, it was during the pandemic and my first two years of uni. They knew that being in these two circumstances can have a toll on someone’s mental health, so it was easier for them to see where I was coming from. 

They’ve also become more comfortable talking about mental health once my sisters and I have started including these topics into our daily conversations. We talk about our personal struggles but also that of people at large. I think it helps them understand that times have changed and that it’s ok now to tell other people that you don't feel ok. 

Even after all this, they might not be 100% comfortable with talking about mental health but it's a start. 

Tagged in What messes with your head, mental health, health and wellbeing, mental wellbeing, parents, Student care, mental health awareness, mental health month