How to ask for help with your mental health

It’s normal to feel anxious, sad, angry and overwhelmed sometimes - these feelings are just part of life. But if your feelings have been going on for longer than usual or you’re struggling to cope with them, it’s important to talk to someone.

When to ask for help

Lots of people struggle to know if they’re experiencing a mental health problem or not. But even if you’re not sure, it’s always OK to ask for help if you feel like you need it.

It’s really important to speak to someone if you’re:

  • worrying all the time
  • struggling to enjoy things
  • feeling like you don’t want to go out or see people
  • finding it hard to do things like go to school or work, or see your friends
  • feeling like you want to hurt yourself
  • feeling like you want to die

Who to speak to

When asking for help with your mental health, the most important thing is to start with someone you trust.

Talking to someone you know

You might want to start by talking to someone you know, like a friend, a family member, a teacher, or someone you work with.

Try to choose a time when you know you’ll both have plenty of time and you won’t be disturbed or distracted.

Talking to a professional or an organisation

Some people feel more comfortable talking to someone they don’t know personally, like their doctor, or a school nurse.

You could also speak to a helpline or a local organisation, for example.

  • talk to a counsellor at childline (for ages 18 and under)
  • get anonymous and confidential support online or by phone with TiC+ chat (for ages 9 to 21)
  • get support from a drop-in (for all ages)

One benefit of speaking to one of these people or organisations is that they’re used to talking to people who are struggling with their mental health.

They won’t judge you for what you’re going through, and they’re trained to listen and offer advice and support.

Getting ready for the conversation

Reaching out about your mental health can feel scary, so it’s a good idea to think about what you want to say beforehand, and how you want to say it.

Some people prefer to talk face to face or on the phone, while others find it easier to write down what they want to say in a letter or an email, or even a text. Think about what would make you feel most comfortable when you’re opening up.

How to explain what’s happening

There’s no right or wrong way to tell someone you’re struggling, but some people find it difficult to describe what they’re going through.

You might find it helpful to share descriptions you’ve read online, in blog posts, books or films that capture how you’re feeling.

You can always make some notes - and don’t be afraid to practice what you want to say on your own or in the mirror, if it makes you feel more confident.

Try to think about how you’d like the other person to help you. People often want to help but can sometimes struggle to know what to say or do.

If you’d like them to help you find some support options, ask them. If you need them to just listen for now, let them know.

Know it can take time

It can take time for people to understand what it’s like when someone is struggling with their mental health.

Try not to put too much pressure on the first conversation, and don’t worry if it doesn’t go exactly as you’d hoped.

You can always talk about it again, and there are always other people and organisations to turn to if you’d rather speak to someone else.

If you’re finding it hard to reach out

You’re not alone. Lots of people find it very difficult to talk about their mental health.

Some people are scared of what others will say or think of them when they do. But asking for help with your mental health is a brave and strong thing to do. You might even find that you inspire someone else to do the same.

Others worry that they won’t get the help they need. It can sometimes take a while to find the best support option for you, but there are lots of people who can help you with this.

Finally, remind yourself of all the good things that can come from asking for help. Many people who open up about their mental health say they feel relieved once it’s out in the open and they don’t have to deal with it alone anymore.

Remember, you’re not alone, and you deserve to feel better.

Read stories from young people who’ve reached out about their mental health on Young Minds