Should You Tell Your Parents About Your Depression?

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For many people dealing with the reality of depression, it can feel isolating. While you may be encouraged to seek support from loved ones—including parents—navigating that process and knowing what to say and do can be challenging.

Given how much stigma there continues to be regarding mental illness, the thought of talking to your parents about your depression may leave you feeling apprehensive and confused. Let these considerations help guide your steps and support you in your decision.

How to Know If Disclosure Makes Sense

While it is possible that you may benefit from talking to your parents about your depression, it may first be worth considering if that is the right decision for your needs. According to a 2012 study, focus groups with patients with depression highlighted both the potentially beneficial and detrimental aspects of accessing informal support from family and friends.

While there may be reasons to unpack "self-imposed barriers to depression discussion, symptom disclosure, treatment adherence and follow-up care," the possibility of emotional trauma or stigmatization is worth avoiding if that may be what you can expect from your parents. 

Unfortunately, that may be the reality even when loved ones mean well. The widespread stigma can impact the support that people with depression may receive.

While it can be challenging to not be able to turn to your parents for support with your depression, that can sometimes be the best decision. If parents have a history of being invalidating or ableist, you may be better off accessing support from others, like siblings, friends, therapists, or support groups.

How Suicidal Ideation May Impact Disclosure

While depression does not necessarily include suicidal ideation, its presence may be a consideration with respect to telling your parents. In a 2018 journal article, the factors that influenced disclosure were explored through semi-structured interviews with 40 people who had survived a suicide attempt. These factors include identifying motivations to disclose, a cost–benefit analysis, and the selection of those who can be trusted with disclosure.

In this way, if you have a supportive relationship with your parents, and the need for tangible support, you may decide that it is in your best interest to have such a discussion with them. Especially if you may be a risk to yourself due to suicidal thoughts and urges, having support from your parents may keep you safe.

Given how depression can impact your ability to look after your responsibilities, it may be particularly helpful for parents to assist with tasks that feel insurmountable, such as making a healthy meal to eat.

Information presented in this article may be triggering to some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

How Culture May Impact Disclosure

Culture has also been shown to impact the experience of disclosure of depression to loved ones. According to a 2018 research study of older Latinx folx who had been diagnosed with depression, it was found that individual emotional and support needs, personal characteristics of a trusted support person, and quality of that relationship tend to impact the decision of participants to disclose.

For instance, "desahogo" was described as a release of emotions, for which, loved ones are needed for venting towards navigating their depression better.In this way, culture allowed some people to process their decisions to disclose and access support based on their understandings of how to cope. In stark contrast, shame or fears of being seen as weak sometimes posed a greater barrier based on the Latinx culture of these research participants.

As examples from that research study of older Latinx adults with depression demonstrate, your culture can aid or hinder disclosure of your diagnosis with loved ones.

Many other factors in your life may serve as reasons for your choice to share with your parents that you are dealing with depression, like their ability to provide emotional support.

Unique Challenges of Postpartum Depression

While depression can arise for a variety of reasons, the experience of postpartum depression (PPD) can sometimes bring especially unique challenges. A 2018 research study found that rates of PPD are significantly higher for people who are marginalized, in terms of being low‐income, BIPOC, immigrant, etc. This reality can often result in poor health for both the parent and the child, as well as difficulties bonding, and educational issues for the child.

Given how factors such as race, class, and immigration status can increase the challenges people face, that may be the case for PPD. That qualitative meta‐interpretive synthesis of the experiences of PPD among marginalized folx found that navigating poverty, cultural barriers, and an abuse history impacts how people are able to seek support from loved ones, such as parents.

Dos and Don'ts of Talking to Your Parents About Your Depression

Based on some of the considerations discussed, you may want to keep the following strategies in mind as you explore the disclosure of your depression:

  • Do know it is OK not to talk to your parents about your depression.
  • Do ask for what you may need from your parents for support to cope.
  • Do understand that you may change your mind about such disclosure.
  • Don't hold yourself to your parent's expectations of you if unaligned.
  • Don't hesitate to set boundaries that meet your mental health needs.

A Word From Verywell

Given the stigma that can often accompany a diagnosis of depression, you may need to work through that before you feel comfortable talking to your parents about what you are navigating.

As you take the time that you need to find the best decision, you may consider the history you have with your parents as a gauge for what you can expect from them should you disclose.

Maybe you are closer with other loved ones, and they may serve as a sounding board for navigating the choice of whether or not to talk to your parents about your depression. Should you make that decision to discuss your depression, you may choose to only share some details, while withholding others if that feels more comfortable.

Disclosure can often be more than a one-time event, as you may still be learning about your diagnosis, which may impact the information that you share with them.

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5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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