How to Talk to Your Friends About Mental Health Illness

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Mar 29, 2023
How to Talk to Your Friends About Mental Health Illness

But believing the lie that you are alone (and then isolating yourself) is one of the worst things someone suffering from mental illness can do. Please don’t let one (or many) bad experiences stop you from talking to those you trust.

Before the age of fourteen, I lived a pretty carefree life. However, when mental illness struck my family, my life was turned upside down. After experiencing countless rounds of physical, mental, and emotional abuse, I was weary. Almost overnight, my charismatic personality became fearful and secretive. As I began to wrestle with my own mental health issues, I started to isolate myself. Unsurprisingly, my issues only multiplied. I felt broken, alone, confused, and too ashamed to even talk to anyone, let alone ask for help.

Looking back now, I realize I could’ve relieved a lot of pain by being honest with friends about what I was going through. That said, I also know that this is no easy task. It’s hard to share your heart with people for fear of what they might think or how they might react. And that’s why, in this article, I want to be your biggest advocate and offer some advice I could’ve used decades ago. 

Here are three simple pointers to talk to your friends about mental health and illness:

1. Choose Trusted Friends 

Growing up, I made and lost many friends. I will never understand that part of adolescence that transitions into adulthood. And I will never forget the day that a little girl on the playground told me she didn’t want to be my friend anymore. I didn't understand why back then. I still don't understand now. But what I do know is this: That moment caused me to lose trust in others. 

Over the years, I learned the hard way that not everyone deserves to hear your story. I tried seeking help from someone I thought I could trust, but this person ended up hurting me deeply. Wounds were created, and it's taken me a long time to let my guard down when it comes to reaching out. The words and decisions of others not only directly impact us but can hurt us. When we have scenarios that happen to us like the one I've just described, they can ultimately prevent us from trusting again. 

One thing I’ve learned to discern is the difference between those who are curious and those who care. Lots of people want to know about your business. Only a true friend wants to offer you support and a shoulder to lean on. 

In Matthew 12:33-37 (NLT), Jesus says that a tree is identifiable by its fruit:

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you."

The same goes for choosing wise and trusted friends. As a good rule of thumb, trusted friends are dependable and live with integrity. When you talk to them, you feel heard and cared for as they express empathy. Good friends are often hard to come by, but you will know one by the qualities they possess. 

2. Don’t Let a Bad Experience Stop You from Reaching Out

Before telling my best friend about my struggles, these bad experiences weighed heavily on my mind. And not even a year after mental illness struck my family, it came knocking on my door. However, instead of asking for help, I bottled it up inside.

My mind flashed to every untrustworthy person I’d ever shared secrets with. But believing the lie that you are alone (and then isolating yourself) is one of the worst things someone suffering from mental illness can do. Please don’t let one (or many) bad experiences stop you from talking to those you trust. I promise you, the bottled emotions aren't worth it. 

Things that are hidden only thrive in the darkness. They fester and grow out of control until you truly believe it would be better to stay where you are than to reach out for help. So how do we combat this? By telling someone who cares.

When my best friend finally found out that I was suffering, I was fearful she would hate me. She was my closest friend, and I’d hidden something extremely personal from her for over ten years. Yet, instead of anger, her first response was, “How can I help?”.  

You may not know how your friends can help, but simply telling someone who cares is a great first step. They don’t need to have all the answers, and neither do you. You just need to be willing to share, and they need to actively listen.

3. Find a Good Time and Way to Communicate  

Once I felt bold enough to tell my best friend about my struggles, I had to figure out how. With riveting anxiety, I confessed my struggles in the best medium I knew how. I decided to write her a letter. This was a method that felt natural and safe to me. It’s important to use a form of communication that works best for you. 

It’s also important to choose the right time. That means a time you feel comfortable and unrushed. Especially around sensitive topics, it’s wise to allow yourself space and time. For example, trying to talk about a serious topic while at work or school may not be the best choice. It can be difficult for even well-meaning individuals to show that they care if they're in a rush or it's not a good time. But meeting at a quaint coffee shop or at your home could be better options. Both would allow a quiet and open space for you to be vulnerable while giving you ample time to share the concerns of your heart. 

When it comes to sharing mental health struggles with someone you trust, the process isn’t easy. It’s scary to be vulnerable with people when you don’t know how they’ll react. At least it was for me! But choosing trusted friends, not letting bad experiences stop you, and finding a good time and way to communicate are three simple ways to make sharing with them a little easier. 

Today, it's my prayer that you'll be equipped and encouraged to reach out to those you can trust and get support for whatever you're going through. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV) recounts: 

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

May the Lord be with you and bless you as you talk to those you trust. He's always with us. Even and especially when we're struggling—and that certainly includes mental health.  

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them" (Matthew 18:20, NIV). 

Agape, Amber

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/MangoStar_Studio

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at