Communicating After a Loved One’s Mental Illness Diagnosis

When a family member is newly diagnosed with a mental illness, life can be stressful. Emotions run high, behaviors can be irrational, exhaustion is common for everyone. Often unintentionally, someone’s words can increase tensions. Now more than ever, communication is crucial, but it can also be frustratingly difficult. Use these tips to help keep communication open and productive after a loved one’s mental illness diagnosis.

Choose words intentionally. Think about what you want to communicate or what information you need to gather before beginning a conversation. It’s often necessary, for example, to determining what led to a behavior. Directly asking “why…” can sound hostile and accusatory to someone dealing with a diagnosis of a mental illness. Instead, try, “Help me understand…” or “I hear you saying…. This is how I felt about it…” (Read this: Best and Worst Things to Say to Someone Who is Depressed)

It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It. It’s very common to worry about what to say when talking to someone who’s recently been diagnosed with a mental illness. While it is important to use your words intentionally, know that what you say isn’t as important as how you say it. Take care to maintain a neutral tone and to keep your own emotions out of important conversations. It’s okay to step away for a break to breathe and reset when you notice yourself growing angry or otherwise upset.

Remember, too, that mental illness doesn’t take away someone’s humanity. It’s as important as ever to continue to communicate with caring and compassion. The above tips can help you do just that.

Recommended Video

Hannah says, "Getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder is a surreal experience, mainly because we are so unfamiliar with what mental health conditions are. When I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder, it was hard for me to believe it. I knew little about mental health, and everything I knew about bipolar disorder was negative." Take a look to learn how Hannah handled it.

Related Articles Dealing with Communication

Today's Question: What strategies do you use when mental illness (your own or a loved one’s) makes communication difficult?​ We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.


From the HealthyPlace Mental Health Blogs

On all our blogs, your comments and observations are welcomed.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of any blog post. And visit the mental health blogs homepage for the latest posts.


From HealthyPlace YouTube Channel

Have you ever challenged the beliefs you grew up with? Find out why it might be time you did in this video. Take a look.

Subscribe to the HealthyPlace YouTube channel


Most Popular HealthyPlace Articles Shared by Facebook Fans

Here are the top 3 mental health articles HealthyPlace Facebook fans are recommending you read:

  1. Explaining a Family Member's Diagnosis to Others
  2. Positive Thinking Helps Anxiety
  3. The Freaky Link Between Depression, Impulsivity, & Your Job

If you're not already, I hope you'll like us on Facebook too. There are a lot of wonderful, supportive people there.


Quote About Eating Disorders

“And I said to my body, softy: 'I want to be your friend'. It took a long breath, and replied: 'I have been waiting my whole life for this.'”

Read more quotes about eating disorders.


That's it for now. If you know of anyone who can benefit from this newsletter or the site, I hope you'll pass this onto them. Please share the newsletter on any social network you belong to. For updates throughout the week, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on Instagram.

Thank you,

Community Partner Team - America's Mental Health Channel
"When you're at, you're never alone."

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, July 20). Communicating After a Loved One’s Mental Illness Diagnosis, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Last Updated: July 20, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info