People today are more than willing to disclose personal information about their daily lives. Many people post pictures of their meals on Instagram, share their political beliefs on Facebook, and rant on Twitter, but when it comes to something as personal as a mental illness, how do you know when you should share this information?
I’m not an expert, nor do I claim to be, but I do know about my own personal experiences and the experiences of others I have known and talked to. If I had anything to say about this topic, it’s that there never really is a right time. However, the sooner the better, especially if you haven’t shared this information with anyone thus far.
Mental illnesses have a huge stigma in our society, but that is all the more reason to talk to your friends and family about it. A major reason this is such a taboo topic is due to the fact that it’s simply not talked about often enough and many people aren’t educated about it. Steele and Berman have talked about mental illness and disclosure and one of the things they said really stuck out to me:
“A bold but necessary move, self-disclosure is a first step toward successfully addressing the stigma associated with being mentall ill. Before we can reveal ourselves to others, we have to come out of our own dark closets.”
Although disclosing to others in your personal circle can be very beneficial for support and help down the road, the inital disclosure has to begin with yourself. Being open and honest with yourself helps you understand the type of help you may need and will in turn help when you disclose later on.
The study that was performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration detailed how disclosing information on a mental illness to others can relieve a great deal of stress for the person who is sharing and can offer hope to others going through the very same thing. However, one important part to remember when disclosing, is to never share something you’re not comfortable with sharing. Just because it might feel better when you’ve shared does not mean you should share because you feel like you have to.
Self-disclosure is not an easy topic, but it can greatly help the person sharing and the friends and family better understand how or when to help, but disclosure is not something that simply happens once. After sharing information on a mental illness or any other personal matter, the questions or feelings that follow may not be immediate. Just as it was a process for the person diagnosed to understand the depth of what was going on, the friends and family surrounding the person may need time to let this information sink in as well.
Patience is an important aspect of the self-disclosure process; not only for the person sharing the details of their mental illness but for the friends and family who will now be a part of this, possibly, lifelong process. There is no clear-cut answer on when or how to reveal such an intimate detail about your life. It all depends on the person, how comfortable and safe they feel about sharing, but in many cases the end result will be worth it.
“It freed me from the burden of having to hide a part of me, and it freed me from the shame that comes from feeling as though you have to hide and keep secret the illness.” (Self- Disclosure and Its Impact on Individuals Who Receive Mental Health Services, Interviewee response)