Giving voice to your experience is important — but so is protecting your mental wellness

Movember is upon us, the campaign that urges men to beat back stigma and conquer shame by opening up about their lived experience of mental illness. There are several platforms that encourage men to be raw and honest, like Michael Landsberg’s Sick Not Weak website, where would-be contributors can share their vulnerability in the name of collective strength.

But before putting pen to paper or speaking out in front of a group, these tips will help make sure you’re ready to take that step:

  • First things first. There’s no rush — and no “right time” to tell your story. Consider checking in with a mental health professional, peer supporter, or trusted friend to see if now is a good time for you to speak out. Supporting mental health is important, but lending your voice shouldn’t set you back. And don’t beat yourself up if it’s not the right time.
  • If your story includes disclosing past traumas or divulging information involving loved ones, be aware that others may have different perspectives or different feelings about privacy. While your story is yours to tell, it’s important to consider how your disclosure could affect those close to you.
  • Going public can be as small as a 280-character tweet or as big as an op-ed in a national paper. Whether you prefer the intimacy of a small group of friends or the anonymity of a room full of strangers, you control how and where you share. What you can’t control is the response.
  • Speakers often say they didn’t expect that sharing their story would lead to confessions from friends and strangers. If you’re open to sharing, also be prepared to listen.
  • If your story involves a suicide attempt, consider consulting with local suicide prevention experts. But no matter what you’re disclosing, use words that affirm — like those in this easy-to-use Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) guide.
  • When sharing your experience, make reference to specific mental health resources. Someone hearing your message may need additional support.
  • The safe conversations resources in the MHCC’s Toolkit for people who have been impacted by a suicide attempt can equally be applied to mental health and illness more broadly. Consider using them and sharing with family or friends.

The most important part of sharing a life-changing story is its capacity to reinforce your feelings of strength, resilience, and perseverance.

When you’re ready, there is nothing more powerful.