Open up about mental health

Written by Michelle Robinson

Welcome to Life Chat With Michelle. I’m delighted to join the Alive team as a regular columnist.
The focus of this column is ‘you’. If you have a dilemma about a relationship or other life-issue, I’m here to offer you some strategies to consider. Sometimes, it’s helpful just to hear what someone else thinks about a problem.

I would love to hear from you. Please email a brief summary of your dilemma or question to and put ‘Ask Michelle’ as your title in the email.

I am an experienced counsellor and hypnotherapist, published author of 3 books and founder of The Academy of Spiritual Practice. For more information, please check out my website,

“I’m struggling with what I want to do after I finish high school. What’s the best advice you have for anxiety about leaving school and moving on to the next chapter?” – Teen17

Hi Teen 17,

You’ve raised a great question. We spend so much of our lives at school, it’s really natural once high school ends to feel anxious about, “What’s next?” or “How do I know I’m making the right decisions?”

The first thing I want to suggest is that you don’t have to have your future mapped out yet. Life’s not like that. While some young people know what career they want to aim for when they finish Year 12, many do not. Even those who think they know, often change their minds once they get a taste
of what their ‘dream job’ actually involves.

So, adopt the attitude that it’s okay to be flexible. That doesn’t mean quitting as soon as something gets a bit challenging. It just means being realistic, and if one career just isn’t right for you, remind yourself you have options. Paths into careers are more flexible now than ever before and all experiences add to your learning and skills.

Consider also your current strengths and interests. Are you a good communicator? What kind of work do you have the highest interest in? Do you need more study or different skills to do that? Please talk to a careers’ counsellor or another advisor who can help you with this.

Next, make sure that you look at your life one decision at a time. Don’t worry about where you
need to be years from now. Prioritize what you need to do in the next month or two, and start with that. I suggest creating a simple action plan, with just a few goals. List the steps you will take, who can help, and when you will do particular tasks. Your anxiety will reduce as you prove you can take
charge of your own life.

Good luck! Live your best life. That’s the best you can do.

Kind regards,

“How can I open up to my family about my mental health? They don’t understand these types of things and I don’t know how to bring it up without being judged.” – Wannabe Strong

Hi Wannabe Strong,

Thanks for raising such an important question. I think you have tapped into the heart of your issue when you say that your family ‘don’t understand these types of things.’

You have faced up to the fact that you have a mental health concern. I am assuming that you are seeking professional help. Good on you!

I don’t know your age, but I do know that you want your family to understand you. You worry that they may judge you, but judgement just reflects a point of view. A point of view can be changed, especially when it involves someone we care about.

Believe it or not, you are the leader in this situation. Your family members need the opportunity to learn more about mental health, especially yours.

Is there one family member you feel closer to than others? Think about who might be the right person to share your feelings with first. Start with them. They can then support you in later discussions. Perhaps, there is a mental health professional or other support person who could help
you speak to your close family?

Create a time and place for your discussion where there are no distractions, and no alcohol. Alcohol heightens emotions and distorts thinking. It’s important that you set a positive expectation from the outset – you take the lead.

Let your family know you are nervous, but that you really want their support. Let them know the facts about your mental health. Give specific details about what you would like from them, so they are not confused about what they should or should not do.

Just be yourself, and be honest. Rise above any comments that disappoint you and above all, don’t get drawn into any kind of drama or blaming game. Just stick to the purpose of the discussion. I hope that your family take this opportunity to grow with you. Whatever happens, you will have acted with courage and maturity.

My very best wishes,