6 tips for talking to your parents about mental health

Talking to your parents/carers about your mental health can be tricky. By doing a little planning ahead, you can make the conversation a lot easier. Remember: there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Telling someone how you feel can be a big relief! If you don’t feel like you can talk to your parents, speak to someone else you trust.

1. Plan ahead and write down what you want to say

  • Focus on the impact of how you’ve been feeling. You could say: ‘I haven’t been spending time with my friends because I’ve been feeling depressed’ or ‘I’ve been finding it hard to get involved in class because I’ve been feeling anxious.’

2. Prepare for how they might react

  • If they say that what you’re describing sounds normal, you could say: ‘This is more than a bad mood. I don’t know how to manage this on my own.’

  • If they make you feel guilty for how you’re feeling, you could say: ‘I don’t want to feel this way, which is why I think I need some extra help.’

  • Even very loving parents may be shocked, or even react defensively, if they feel they’re to blame for your current difficulties. Give them some time to process things, and perhaps get a friend, family member or health professional to help you have the conversation.

3. Consider putting what you want to say in writing

  • If you’re feeling really nervous about having a conversation with your parents, write them a letter, email or text to start the discussion.

4. Pick a good time and place

  • Try to pick a place where you’ll have your parents’ full attention (e.g. at home on a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing much happening, or on a family walk, rather than in the car when you’re rushing to get to school).

  • Try to choose a time when you and your parents are all feeling relaxed and open to having a conversation.

5. Let your parents know how they can help

  • Your parents or carers may not know how to help. Have a think about ways they can support you (e.g. by booking a GP/psychologist appointment or checking in regularly with you about how you’re feeling).

  • You could also let them know what isn’t helpful (e.g. asking how you are too often).

6. Get extra support

  • If you are at school, a school counsellor can help you to practise the conversation or talk with your parents about what’s going on with you.

  • You could also speak to a psychologist or counsellor (or a helpline like Kids Helpline) for advice on having the conversation.

  • If you already see a mental health professional, you could consider inviting your parents or carers into a session, to have some support in opening up a conversation about what’s happening for you.

What to do if your parents don't react the way you want them to

Taking the first step in letting a parent or carer know what’s going on for you can be difficult. Some parents may find this kind of conversation uncomfortable, or it could make them feel scared or sad. But most parents would say that while these feelings are painful for them, they’re worth it in order to know what you’re going through and to potentially help you through it. Some things you can do to feel supported include:

  • Reach out for support from other people in your life, such as a school counsellor or teacher, a friend or other family member, or a coach or mentor.

  • Lean into other support networks, communities and friendship circles you think might be supportive. You could try ReachOut.com/Forums to speak to other young people who understand what you’re going through.

  • Get your parents to hop on to ReachOut Parents to learn more.

  • Plan something nice for after the conversation (e.g. a walk to your fave spot or a catchup with a friend).

What can I do now?

  • Find out how to get your parents to really listen to you.

  • Talk to other young people who get it on the ReachOut Forums.