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Responding to Mental Health Disclosure: Dos and Don’ts


Navigating a conversation where someone discloses a mental illness can be challenging, and the way we respond can have a significant impact. This article offers guidance on what to do, and what not to do, when someone shares their mental health condition with you.

Do: Listen Actively

Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what is being said. It’s about providing your undivided attention and acknowledging the individual’s experiences and feelings without interruption. This shows respect for their courage in sharing something so personal and helps create a supportive and open environment.

Don’t: Try to Diagnose or Offer Unsolicited Advice

As tempting as it may be, avoid diagnosing or offering unsolicited advice. You might mean well, but it’s important to remember that you’re not a mental health professional (unless you are one). Diagnosis and treatment advice should be left to the experts. Instead, encourage them to seek professional help if they haven’t already.

Do: Validate Their Feelings

Validating someone’s feelings means acknowledging their emotions and experiences without judgment. You can say things like, “That sounds really tough, and I appreciate you sharing this with me.” Such phrases can be reassuring, letting them know that their feelings are important and heard.

Don’t: Dismiss or Minimize Their Experience

Avoid making comments that could dismiss or minimize their experiences, like “We all have bad days” or “I’m sure it’s not that bad.” Such responses can invalidate their feelings and make them feel misunderstood.

Do: Show Empathy and Kindness

Express empathy by trying to understand their feelings and perspective. Be kind, patient, and supportive. Recognize their strength in sharing their struggles with you and ensure them that you’re there to support them.

Don’t: Share Their Story Without Permission

Respect their privacy. Just because they’ve shared their mental health condition with you doesn’t mean they want others to know. Never disclose someone’s mental health condition without their explicit permission.

Do: Educate Yourself

If you’re unfamiliar with the mental illness they’ve disclosed, take the time to educate yourself about it. This can help you better understand what they’re going through and offer appropriate support.

Don’t: Stereotype or Stigmatize

Avoid making stereotypical or stigmatizing comments. Mental illness does not define a person, and it’s crucial not to label them based on their condition. Respect their individuality and remember that they’re the same person as before their disclosure.


Reacting appropriately when someone discloses a mental illness can help them feel supported and less alone. Active listening, validation, empathy, and respect for their privacy are vital. Avoiding judgment, dismissal, unsolicited advice, and stereotyping can prevent causing unintentional harm. Remember, your role isn’t to fix their problems but to provide emotional support and understanding.