Having clinical depression is one situation — asking for help is another.
It can be extremely difficult to seek help when you have depression, especially because of the negative stigma surrounding mental health. However, asking for assistance — whether it be medical or not — can help you manage your moods better and will help you feel less isolated during this tough time.
When I first felt depressed, I didn’t ask for any medical assistance whatsoever. I merely thought that my feelings would dissipate with time.
But it didn’t. In fact, it grew like wildfire and, within a year, I self-harmed for the first time at age eleven.
Even long after my hospitalization at Vista Del Mar, I was too afraid to speak up and to ask for help from my closest friends and family members. It wasn’t until I talked to the people around me that life took a turn for the better.
If you’re struggling with depression or any other mental illness and you wish to seek help but haven’t taken the first step in doing so, here are my top 4 tips for asking for help:
- Reach out to one person.
Whether your anxiety is through the roof or if you simply want to vent your feelings out to someone, start small by talking to just one person whom you trust.
You don’t have to talk to your best friend or your parents, either. You can choose to talk with your school counselor, doctor, or any other trustworthy adult.
The first person whom I reached out to when I felt depressed was my middle school counselor, who proved to be of outstanding assistance as she had no prior judgment or bias about me, therefore she could offer me fair advice without the emotional attachment that a close friend or family member may impose.
If you’re too afraid to reach out to the people around you for fear of judgment, you can always call different hotlines, which are responsive 24/7. The calls you make are 100 percent confidential and, unless you express the desire to harm yourself or others, your situation will not be reported to the police or your parents.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was one of the most vital resources for me when I was going through times of dire need; however, there are many more hotlines at your disposal. These are a few hotlines out of many others:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention: 1-800-931-2237
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Gay and Lesbian National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends): 1-800-DONT-CUT
Teen Hope Line: 1-800-394-HOPE
For a complete list of hotlines, go to http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/.
- Say anything and everything that is on your mind.
Now that you’ve figured out one (or more) individual(s) to confide in, I highly recommend sharing everything you feel without holding any information back.
If you’ve felt suicidal at one point, say it. If you’ve wanted to hurt yourself, say it. If you know what triggers your panic attacks, say it. It’s never healthy to hold on to the burdens you’ve been keeping within yourself as this will result in an eventual “burst” of emotions.
What I like to do when I am asking for help is to first outline the origins of my emotions, and then work my way to the current time. This way, I can create a mental timeline of what may have caused my mental health to plummet and analyze what times in my life were the peaks and troughs of my depression/anxiety. This mental mapping will also help whomever you are speaking to offer the most clear advice regarding your situation as your thoughts will be organized and detailed.
- Take advice.
Unless you merely want to be heard, it’s important to ask for the person’s suggestions or advice regarding your mental health, especially if he/she is a licensed professional. This way, you will learn healthy ways through which you can cope with your mental health and discuss solutions that may appease your struggles.
For example, one crucial piece of advice that was incredibly difficult for me to take initially was to tell myself in the mirror that I loved myself every morning and night. It sounds corny, but my therapist encouraged me to repeat this exercise on a daily basis for several months. Fortunately, this exercise helped turn my life around— I was able to confidently state that I was secure in my own skin and that I respected myself enough to walk away from anything or anyone that didn’t make me happy anymore.
Whatever counsel you receive from others – be it difficult to follow or not – make a commitment to stick to it and follow through. If your doctor prescribes you with antidepressants, make sure you take those pills every day. If your therapist encourages you to utilize a specific coping mechanism whenever you have anxiety, use it every single time you feel the onset of a panic attack.
Establishing routines is never simple, but it may be the best choice for the sake of your mental health.
- Don’t be afraid to look for help in a different source if nothing is working.
If you don’t like your current therapist, find another one. If your antidepressant medication isn’t working, talk with your doctor to explore another option. If your panic attacks are still occurring despite using your go-to coping mechanism every single time, switch up your coping mechanism stat.
It’s necessary to be adamant in your search for help, especially if your loved ones are discouraging you from seeking medical assistance for your mental health. If there is a huge stigma surrounding mental health within your household, at school, or in the workplace, it’s important to break down those barriers and discover what makes you happy, not necessarily the people around you. For instance, if your family members aren’t huge advocates of mental health, it’s still crucial to stand up for yourself and demand that you want to see a therapist, doctor, counselor, etc.
Don’t be afraid to find different solutions or to hurt others’ feelings because something isn’t working out. You must find what works best for you and your mental health needs, which may require some uncomfortable shifts and adjustments.
An example of this change happened to me when I was in the eighth grade. I switched therapists once as I did not feel as if my former therapist was the best “fit” for me. At first I was hesitant to do so as I didn’t want to hurt my former therapist’s feelings; however, this switch was necessary for me to grow as an individual and to find different and better solutions for my depression and anxiety.