I’ve heard friends in the bleeding disorders community speak about depression and other mental health concerns. I want to support them, but I’m not sure how to approach this sensitive topic. Can you offer guidance on how to have a conversation with friends about mental health?
Thank you for your concern and question. Living with a chronic disorder such as a bleeding disorder may make a person feel stressed, sad, and sometimes depressed. It’s okay to feel this way and talking about how you’re feeling doesn’t make you appear weak. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness in a given year and depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Even though these are common experiences, people often shrug and say “I’m fine” when asked how they’re coping because they may be afraid to share the truth.
Talking with friends about mental health can be difficult for many reasons, including the stigma associated with this topic. Be cautious not to make assumptions about what others may be experiencing or what they need to improve their health. Use these resources to help guide your conversation:
- Encourage your friends to get connected with people facing similar experiences. Social connections can positively impact their health and personal happiness, preventing feelings that may negatively affect mental health. HFA has a community of people who are there to share experiences and incorporate more social connectedness into daily life. Find opportunities to get involved here, register for HFA programs, and reach out to an HFA Member Organization for local resources.
- Coping with a mental health concern, along with a bleeding disorder, can make people feel even more disconnected, isolated, and sad, leaving them vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and suicidal behaviors. HFA created the following videos to address mental health concerns with community members. Watch these videos to educate yourself and share them with friends:
- Beyond Blue: Managing Depression & Anxiety (geared for young adults, 18-30 years old)
- Coping with Stress
- I Can’t Fight this Feeling: Depression and Anxiety
- Caring for friends is important, but their mental health may be beyond your ability to support. Refer friends to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line to connect with a trained crisis counselor or encourage them to seek support from a mental health professional. Asking for a mental health referral from their primary care doctor is usually a good first step.
There are many approaches to talking about and managing mental health. However, you start the conversation, remind friends that you’re there for them and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. The more we talk about mental health, the more we reduce the stigma around it.
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HFA frequently receives questions from the bleeding disorders community related to advocacy issues. The questions often impact the entire community. In an effort to reach the largest audience possible with our responses to these widely applicable questions, HFA developed “Dear Addy.” Questions submitted to this column are edited in order to protect privacy and should be considered educational only, not individual guidance.