How to be honest with your housemates about your mental health
According to mental health charity MIND, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue each year, and in England 1 in 6 people report experiencing a reoccurring mental health issue (such as anxiety and depression) per week. Despite these statistics showing that mental health issues are more common than you may think, it’s still incredibly daunting when you try to articulate your struggles to those around you. If you are as unlucky as I am and your mental health impacts your day-to-day, then it might be a good idea to clue your housemates in. You shouldn’t feel as if you’re defined by your mental health but at the same time, you shouldn’t have to hide your struggles from your housemates – heres how to be honest with your housemates about your mental health
Find a good time to talk
Moving to uni can be one of the worst stress-triggers for issues like anxiety, as you’re completely removed from your comfort zone and thrust into a new environment. While you don’t want the first thing you say about yourself to be, “Hi, I’m mentally ill and here’s how”, it will be something that’s at the front of your mind throughout the process. The best way to simultaneously clue your housemates in while not making it the first thing they learn about you is to suggest going for a meal or coffee before the obligatory freshers’ nights out begin. That way, you can naturally bring it into the conversation (i.e. “Oh, I just feel there’s something you should know”) without attempting to scream it over club music or leaving it so long that you feel uncomfortable bringing it up at all.
Hard as it may be, honesty really is the best policy. There’s no point wanting to have an open conversation with your housemate about such a personal issue if you’re not going to be completely upfront with them. You might need their help in a few months time, and they won’t know unless you’re honest with them. This honesty also extends to how your mental health affects you; if your depression means you sleep a lot and need them to be respectful of that (or at least not call you lazy) then tell them. They won’t know otherwise. Likewise, be aware that they probably don’t know what being depressed/anxious feels like. It’s easy to get into your own head and start resenting people around you for not understanding, but they can’t empathise with what they don’t understand unless you tell them how.
Tell them what you need from them
This only works if you were honest with them earlier in the conversation. If you have certain triggers that make your mental state worse and are easily avoidable, tell them upfront what they are and how you react to them. For example, I used to get extremely upset when people called me lazy or called my sleeping routine weird when really it was my depression and anxiety that made me sleep at odd times or sleep in late. It’s hard to ask people to stop calling you lazy because they’re more than likely doing it in humour, so they don’t understand why it upsets you (or might not even know that it does unless you explicitly tell them). It’s important to tell people exactly what upsets you before it happens rather than after, but also be understanding when they do things that upset you without meaning. You’re both only human after all.
When it comes to mental health, it’s important to avoid holding things in. If you need a good cry after a long hard day, then go and do it. There’s no shame in putting yourself first when you need it. Also, don’t change yourself because you’re afraid of what your housemates will think – you’re wonderful just the way you are, and everything will be okay!