How to Say “I’m Not Okay”

For the last Mental Health Awareness month post, HPW wants to give the DePaul community some support with having deeper conversations about mental health.  

Recognizing symptoms of mental health in ourselves may be an uncomfortable process. It can include changes in daily living, starting and/or reintroducing therapy into weekly schedules, thinking about potentially triggering topics (i.e. anniversaries of traumatic events) and discussing active mental health experiences with the people in our lives. Research from the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that discussing mental wellbeing may be most difficult for adults age 18-34 when compared to other adult age groups.  

 The APA did not indicate any reason why young adults (including many college-aged people) seem to struggle the most with accepting their mental health experiences. But, in the DePaul community we can encourage ourselves and our peers to be more open about our experiences. We can start by educating ourselves about mental health topics, including the concept that mental health is just as important as physical health. General Practitioner Helena Temple is one of many health care practitioners who are engaging in conversations about why “It’s OK not to be OK”.  




As she points out, the sooner we can recognize and verbalize our mental health symptoms the sooner we can be supported in increasing our mental wellbeing. For those who have never been to therapy or haven’t had access to information about mental wellbeing it might be difficult to understand what the signs of mental health distress are. There are some confidential online resources that can assess if an individual should seek support for their mental wellbeing, including a mental health screening on Hope for the Day’s website. 

Knowing how to start the conversation can help ease some of the tension that comes with disclosing mental health experiences. We have provided an outline for how to approach someone about mental health experiences when the time comes. 


Step 1: Reflection 

Maybe an anniversary to a triggering event is approaching, there are more stressful events than usual, or current environments aren’t providing the necessary support. Thinking about why these feelings are coming up may give a better sense of control over the situation. 

Step 2: Write Down or Practice What To Say 

Spend time writing out a script or bullet points that summarize your current condition. To get even more comfortable with saying the feelings out loud, try practicing on a pet, a picture of the individual, or a recording.  

Step 3: Start Small 

Think of the ripple effect. One small pebble can eventually make a ripple through the whole pond, but only after making smaller ripples first. Approaching one or two individuals to start the conversation can create more comfort in talking about the thoughts and feelings surrounding the mental health condition. 

  Step 4: Carve out More Time for Processing 

Focusing more on school, job responsibilities, or relationships instead of internal thoughts seems like a welcome distraction. But not taking steps to process the current feelings will only perpetuate them. Whether it’s starting therapy, finding a peer support group, or dedicating more time to a spiritual practice, there needs to be a shift in the time spent processing the current emotions. 


We understand that this outline might not work for everyone. If having a face-to-face conversation feels too scary it’s okay to send a message, talk on the phone, or write a letter. If there is a history of negative experiences with disclosing mental health symptoms it can be difficult to trust that the person receiving the information will respond in a constructive way. Should this be the case, starting with calling a hotline rather a loved one may be easier. What is most important about the process of disclosing personal mental health experiences is that it is done in a way that feels safest for the individual disclosing. And as always, HPW is here for you. We can be reached at 773-325-7129, through our email, our virtual office zoom link, or visit our website to see the list of resources HPW offers. 



National Alliance on Mental Illness: 800-950-6264 

Illinois Mental Health Collaborative for Access and Choice Warm Line: 866-359-7953 

Trevor Project Lifeline (LGBTQ+ Hotline): 866-488-7386 

Asian LifeNet Hotline: 877-990-8585 

National Alliance for Hispanic Health: 866-783-2645 

Illinois Call4Calm Textline (for emotional support with struggles from COVID-19): Text TALK or HABLAR to 552020 




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