How do I ask my friends and family for help?

Taylor Adams, Mental Health America

When I got my first job, I moved a couple states away from my friends and family. I didn’t want to admit that moving away from home made me feel isolated, that I was having trouble making new friends, and that I was struggling with my emotions. I did not want to admit to myself that I needed help, much less to my friends and family.

The stigma of mental illness can be as debilitating as the illness itself. Accepting that you may be struggling can turn it into an unavoidable reality, but it can also put you on a path to get help. Sometimes symptoms from a mental illness, like lack of motivation or a sense of hopelessness, can make it even harder to reach out, but it is important to remember that negative feelings are an effect of mental illness. They do not reflect the reality that there is hope in finding help.

Your family and friends can be your greatest allies in the path to recovery. There are a few ways to approach them when asking for support. Even if they do not understand what you are going through, they’ll most likely want to help any way they can. The best way to guide them is to simply tell them what you need. People naturally want to give advice and problem solve, but let them know that they can help by just listening to you. Ask them to be patient with you when you feel low because recovery takes time.

Friends and family can serve as a vital support system, and they can help you answer questions or find someone who can answer your questions on recovery. If you are under your family’s insurance plan, you can talk to them about finding a doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist that is covered by insurance in your area. If you are in school, you can talk to a guidance counselor about your concerns and see what options there are for help.

If you’re worried that your immediate family won’t be supportive, try reaching out to extended family members, like trusted aunts or uncles. You might also consider close neighbors to be “family.” A lot of people have troubled relationships with their parents or siblings, so you shouldn’t feel worse because your family isn’t as naturally supportive as you want them to be. Similarly you might be concerned that your close friends won’t know how to help. You might be surprised at how much an old childhood friend may be able to help.

It can be scary to take that first step to ask for help, but once you do, you will see how many people want to support you. Asking for help is a sign of courage, and you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that things can get better. Finding the motivation and hope to recover is far more rewarding than the stigma preventing you from getting help. 

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