If you’re a parent and you or another family member has experienced mental health concerns, you might be worried about talking to your children about them. Should you discuss it at all? If you do, what should you say?

Your first reaction may be to avoid talking about it all together. However, I’ve learned as a clinical psychologist that when you talk openly about these issues, it can teach your kids to cope with greater understanding. Also, increased awareness can lead to greater compassion, which can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

When you do decide to open the door to a conversation with your kids about mental illness, here are several important points that can help you manage this situation with greater confidence.

1. Cover the basics.

It’s often helpful to start with simple facts about mental illnesses to dispel some of the common myths surrounding them. For example:

-Mental illnesses are “real” illnesses, just like diabetes or epilepsy.

-Mental illnesses are very common; 1 out of every 4 adults will have one.

-It’s OK to talk about having a mental illness; it doesn’t have to be a secret.

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5 Tips for Talking to Kids About Mental Illness
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