If your teen has been diagnosed with a mental health condition, there are certainly a lot of changes you, your teen, and your family are all facing as a result. It can be tempting to keep all of these changes inside for a while; it might even feel safe.
But secrecy doesn’t help in the long run. In fact, it can make your teen feel more anxious, stigmatized and unwilling to seek support. Therefore, it’s important to help your teen tell others about their mental health diagnosis. Here are some ways you can do this.
Your Teen is Not Their Diagnosis
The first way you can support your teen in telling others about their mental health condition is to help them understand they are not their diagnosis and that it doesn’t define them. In other words, if your teen lives with schizophrenia, this doesn’t mean that the only thing about them that is important is their schizophrenia, nor is this their only identity.
Try making a list of things your teen likes to do or is gifted at and help them to focus on these things. When they tell their friends about their diagnosis, this will help them to remember that there are other attributes that define who they are.
Help Them Understand Their Diagnosis
Make sure your teen understands their own diagnosis. Help them to feel comfortable with symptoms, outlook and recovery options so that they feel confident answering questions that might come their way when they do decide to tell people.
Don’t Pressure Them
While it’s beneficial for your teen to tell others about their mental health diagnosis, they don’t have to rush it. Telling people about a condition is a personal decision and it’s important to remain supportive of your teen’s timing.
Provide Support and Debriefing
When your teen reaches the decision to tell individuals about their mental illness, offer as much support as you can. They might find it helpful to practice the conversation with you or even have you there to answer any questions that might come up. Offer to debrief with them after they have their conversation to help alleviate any anxiety that might arise. While there’s no ‘right’ or even necessarily easy way for your teen to tell people about their condition, they don’t have to feel alone.
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