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Talking about your illness or disability

Two girls sitting and talking.

Talking about your illness or disability with your friends and others at school can be tough. Sometimes, you don't know how people are going to feel about it. If you need a hand getting started, use the steps below to make it easier to talk about your health.

  • Decide who to tell. You may choose to tell all of your friends, or only a few close ones. Some illnesses or disabilities are easier to see than others. If you lose your hair because of a cancer treatment, your classmates will probably already know that you have an illness. If your illness or disability can't be seen as easily on the outside, you may decide you want to tell only a few people.
  • Decide ahead of time what you want to say. Whether you plan to tell just one friend or your whole class, it can help to practice. Try writing down what you would like to say. Then practice saying it in front of a mirror or to a friend who already knows.
  • Choose how much to tell. Classmates may need only a little bit of information, such as how your illness or disability affects you at school. Beyond that, it's up to you how much to tell people. Take your time to get a feel for how people are taking in what you are saying. If they seem open and you'd like to tell them more, go ahead.
  • Don't worry about people's reactions. Your real friends will still like you. If someone decides they don't want to be friends with you because of your health issues, that person is not a good friend to have anyway. The more you talk about your health and answer questions, the easier it will get. Pretty soon, it will be second nature, and you'll be comfortable talking about it and answering questions. And as more of your friends learn from you, you will find that you get more support from them in return.
  • Tell people how you’d like to be treated. You might ask them not to stare if you look different in some way. Or you might tell them that you don’t mind answering a few questions but may not be comfortable saying a lot more.

 

Content last reviewed February 16, 2011
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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