It’s not easy for most people to ask for help. Many of us probably have a story in our past about not asking for directions and ending up hopelessly lost. And, if it’s tough asking for directions, think about how challenging it can be to ask for help when you’re struggling with mental health or addiction.
When something is wrong, we may feel like everyone can tell, like we’re putting out strong signals that we need support. But, for a number of reasons, others may not notice or talk about these signals and we may be the ones who need to speak up for ourselves.
So, how do we do that? Here are 5 tips that may help a very difficult conversation be just a little bit easier.
Choose the right person
Think about who has been there for you in the past, who is non-judgmental and accepting, and who will listen with empathy. It might be a friend, family member, or a professional like a doctor or counsellor. While people sometimes find it helpful to talk to others who have struggled with mental health and/or addictions themselves, compassion can come from people from all walks of life.
Focus on what’s changed
Talk about how your concerns are affecting you. Something like, “I used to look forward to being with my friends, but for the past couple of months, I haven’t felt like doing anything” can show that something has changed for you – that it’s not the way you usually are and you need support.
There’s no need to diagnose
It’s not necessary to Google away to identify what might be going on with you. You don’t need to say “I think I have an anxiety disorder” in order to ask for help. Talk about signs and symptoms, like feeling on edge, crying a lot, or having trouble sleeping. Whether or not you will be diagnosed with something down the road doesn’t matter right now – getting help does.
Think about what you need and want
What do you need and want right now? What would be helpful to you? Sometimes it’s challenging to identify, but if you have ideas in your mind, talk about them. Say, “I’m wondering if you would go to the doctor with me” or “I really need to learn how to deal with stress” or “I want to know how to improve my relationship”. This can be the first step to changing your situation for the better. And, if you don’t know, that’s OK too. Talking about your situation is a great start.
Acknowledge reactions – yours and theirs
This may be an emotional and difficult conversation, both for you and the person to whom you are talking. Be prepared for reactions from both sides, which may include confusion, sadness, shock, or any range of emotions. Unfortunately, you may not get the support you are hoping for, and the other person may be critical or dismissive. If you do not find the response helpful, don’t give up on trying altogether. Give the conversation another go with someone who will hopefully be accepting and supportive.
If you are not sure where to start with asking for help, check out our free walk-in counselling available in Milton, Burlington, and Oakville every week.