Reasons As To Why People Don’t Open Up About Their Mental Illness Struggles

When was the last time you were completely honest about your feelings? It’s way more harder than you think , isn’t it? When people ask you how you are doing, it’s so customary to respond with the ” I am fine ” answer even if there’s a lot going on with you in your life. A better and true meaning of opening up is being honest and revealing your inner thoughts and emotions to someone while being completely vulnerable and letting others know how you are feeling. This can also mean learning to be honest with yourself. As human beings we often hate being put in a situation where we feel vulnerable and mostly due to fear of being judged, hurt, criticized and rejected. To be vulnerable means to put ourselves in a position that could potentially hurt us.

Teenager consoling her friend

Before you tell yourself that you are a good friend, family or partner ask yourself this question first, have you ever made someone feel so safe and totally secure around you that venting out becomes easy for them? If you have, a big thumbs up to you and if you haven’t don’t worry but be thankful that you landed on this blog because I will try to help you figure out primary reasons why people don’t open up and seek help when facing mental struggles. Awareness of mental illness and the need for treatment has been growing in recent years, this is due to mental health campaigns designed to raise awareness and help out end the stigma surrounding it. Despite this headway still many people with mental health problems don’t seek the help they need to get. A study by the World Health Organization(WHO) found that between 30 and 80 percent of people with mental health issues don’t seek treatment. Here’s some of the basic reasons

  • MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA– This is one of the major reasons as to why people find it harder to open up about their mental health issues. Mental health stigma is often described as a negative stereotype where a person views and judges you in a negative way simply because you have a distinguishing characteristic or a personal trait that’s thought to be or actually is a disadvantage and unfortunately in this case the people with mental health conditions are faced with negative beliefs and attitudes towards them. This stigma is mostly perpetuated by the society and it is why most people are afraid to reach out for help with fear of being stigmatized, people who have yet to reach out for help hear stories of how others were labeled or mistreated because they chose to open up or ask for help. The mindset encouraged by the society that people who struggle with mental health are weak or faking it just to get attention is the reason people put on a mask and pretend that everything is fine when in reality everything is not.
  • MENTAL HEALTH LITERACY – Arising from the concept of health literacy, is defined as understanding how to obtain and maintain positive mental health, understanding mental health problems and their treatments, decreasing stigma related to mental health issues and enhancing help-seeking efficacy. Lack of mental health literacy is one of the many reasons leading to mental health stigma. People with limited mental health knowledge may be unable to recognize signs of mental health distress in themselves or others and hence stop them from seeking help. Mental health literacy is an important enabling tool as it helps people to understand better their own mental health and act upon this information, which is why I believe mental health should be accessible, transparent and for everyone.
  • UPBRINGING- The parental upbringing that a person received when growing up contributes largely as to why most people find it difficult to open up. To some households keeping it in and dealing with it on your own is seen as a sign of strength while vulnerability is seen as a weakness, so vulnerability may not come naturally to you and that is completely understandable. Most people don’t have the skill to communicate when it comes to emotional language because it is a skill that is learnt, taught or nurtured within us from a young age hence it is not a surprise that most people struggle with voicing their feelings as adults. People also become cautious about opening up because previously they experienced rejection or judgment after being vulnerable with either a family member or a partner and that’s also completely understandable.
  • INVALIDATION– By definition invalidation is the act of dismissing, denying or rejecting one’s feelings. With or without knowing we automatically send a message that a person’s subjective emotional experience is insignificant and/or unacceptable. Invalidation is one of the most damaging forms of emotional abuse and what’s scary is that it is one of the most unintentional abuses one can do. When a person is expressing or opening up to you about their feelings and emotions what you should do is listen and make them feel that what they feel or felt at that particular moment was and is completely valid because mostly when a person feels invalidated he/she will often leave the conversation feeling confused and full of self doubt. What most people don’t understand is that validation doesn’t necessarily mean we agree with one’s subjective reality but it simply means we allow another person’s emotional state a space to exist.
  • COMPARISON- We often tend to compare one’s pain with our own, it’s like when you share your problem with someone and they say, ” this is nothing you are facing compared to what I went through”. This kind of statement is a biggest turnoff to someone struggling with a problem because to them their pain matters and when you compare their problems with yours it makes them feel dispirited and may never open up again.
  • MISTRUST- In light of the question I previously asked if you have ever made someone feel safe and secure around you that venting out their feelings and emotions becomes easy for them, one of the biggest reason why someone can not open up to you is because they can not trust you with their feelings and emotions in fear of being exposed by telling other people what they thought will be between you and them. People often mistrust people with reasons because maybe at some point in your lives you once made them feel betrayed by exposing something that was thought of as something personal and that is why one may find it difficult opening up about their mental health struggles.
  • MAYBE THEY JUST DON’T WANT TO- At the end of the day, they don’t owe you or anyone an explanation regardless of the relationship you have with them. There doesn’t have to be a reason simply because it’s their right to decide what they share with you and what not to share with you. You might feel heartbroken but it’s important to respect their decision and their boundaries and not press the issue too much.

There are many reasons attached to mental health which makes it harder to open up for one and we as a society fail to stay aware and alert and we intentionally or unintentionally contribute to it. So if you really want to help and be a good friend, family member, partner or colleague here are some ways you need to adapt to in order to make one feel safe and secure around you so much that they open up to you;

  1. Provide a safe space, make them feel comfortable
  2. Avoid being judgmental
  3. Drop your biases
  4. Be an active listener
  5. Provide validation
  6. Don’t offer solutions unless asked for
  7. Avoid sharing other stories
  8. Ensure your availability
  9. Keep a regular check-up on your friends and family
  10. Respect one’s boundaries.

Did you enjoy today’s blog post? From today’s post do you think you are one of the reasons why you friends or family never open up to you or express their feelings and emotions? If yes , after reading this post do you think you can change? Feel free to drop your answers in the comment section below and don’t forget to like, comment and share this post with your friends, family and colleagues!