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When to and when not to keep our mental health issues ‘personal’, even from our own family members?

The reason for addressing this question is because of the prevailing stigmatizing belief that persons with mental health issues are somehow inferior. While this belief is generally acknowledged as not true, at least in educated circles, the majority of people in the society are still not confident about talking about their mental health issues. They want to keep it as ‘personal’ and try to solve it all by themselves, even without the help and support of their dear and near ones, leave alone the professional help.

Keeping it ‘personal’, even from our own family members!’

When is it not appropriate?

If you feel suicidal, feel violent urges like self-harming and harming others or properties, it is better not to keep your issues personal. Inform your dear and near ones and seek professional help at the earliest.

When mental health issues, like fears, obsessions and phobias, suspicions, cause intense distress and interferes with your day to day functioning, inform your family members and seek their support to get professional help.

When you are struggling to keep away from addictive substances, inform the dear and near ones and with their support seek professional help.

When can you keep it as ‘personal’?

When there are interpersonal and sexual issues, say between husband and wife, when the issues are mild, meaning they do not cause intense distress or interfere with the day to day functioning, they can be kept personal and professional help can be sought individually or together with spouse.

The main reason to keep it as personal is that, it involves, frequently, judgment and attribution of motives which are potential areas for bias and distortion, depending on the frame of reference of the persons hearing about it. For example, if the daughter tells her parents about her marital problem, they may over react in a biased way towards their son-in-law and may complicate the matter. Hence, till a certain level of severity, they can be personal.

Any conflict involving relatives, fellow workers, colleagues and other social contacts can be kept ‘personal’. Otherwise, there is the danger of it being distorted by others’ opinions, judgments and interference. It may get converted into a ‘drama’ for others, at the expense of the involved parties.

How to keep it personal?

Be clear about this point: You can and need to seek professional help or support, even while keeping it personal. Keeping it personal is not equivalent to not seeking help! You need to seek clarification, help or treatment for your mental health issues, but that need not be known to others needlessly, not even to family members.

The readily available help is Google Search, but use it only to learn more about your health issue, rather than for self diagnosing and for self treatment; it needs professional experience and judgment!

Once you get a sense that it is better to seek professional help, then you seek the options about available helping professionals or centres, in the internet or from your trusted well-wishers. Choose to your comfort level and then proceed.

The answers to this kind of questions have multiple dimensions. But, all cannot be addressed in a single post. If you need any specific clarification, send email to vazhikatti@gmail.com.

In general, except in few specific situations, it is better to seek the help and support of the near and dear ones.