When and How to Reach Out
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
The majority of people have struggled with their mental health at some point in their life – whether it be a diagnosable disorder, a severe mental condition, or simply just the everyday stresses of life. Yet, often times it is difficult to know when you’re just having a “bad week”, or when something is wrong and you need to reach out for help. Asking for help is largely a personal decision; but, if the following apply to you, asking for help from a friend, family member, or professional, may be something you want to consider.
1. YOU ARE FEELING “NOT YOURSELF”.
A change in habits or feelings can be a strong indicator of a need for help. This can include – but is not limited to – changes in personality traits (ex. feeling shy when you’re normally outgoing), eating habits (eating too much or not enough), or sleeping habits (struggling to sleep or sleeping too much). Anything that may suggest you are “not yourself” may indicate the need to reach out for help.
2. THOSE SYMPTOMS HAVE NOT GONE AWAY.
If the above changes in emotions or habit last for an extended period of time, you may want to consult a professional to understand why these changes have occurred.
3. YOU HAVE ENDURED A TRAUMATIC EVENT.
No matter your mental stability or personality, enduring a traumatic event – such as a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, sexual abuse, etc. – can take a toll on anyone. Searching for help may be the best way to cope.
4. YOU ARE USING UNHEALTHY MECHANISMS TO COPE.
Approximately 7.9 million adults have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders. Turning to a substance or damaging behavior – such as drugs, alcohol, food, or sex – to make you feel better can be a harmful way of coping with mental struggles.
5. YOU’VE LOST INTEREST IN PREVIOUS THINGS YOU ENJOYED.
This change in behavior is common among people who struggle with mental health – mostly anxiety and depressive disorders. If you find this change within yourself, reaching out for help may help you to realize why this change has occurred.
If one of the above applies to you, seeking help may be in your best interest. Otherwise, feelings, thoughts, or symptoms can progressively get worse and harder to treat. But that brings you to another uncertainty you may be having: How do I ask for help?
“Reaching out” is a skill. It’s often something we are never taught, yet somehow expected to know. Understandably, it can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar; so, to help with this process, the following are just some examples of what you can ask/do depending on your situation.
1. “I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE RIGHT NOW. COULD YOU STAY?”
Asking a friend or family member to stay is a subtle way to ask for comfort. Just being with the company can lift spirits, and also has the potential to lead to deeper conversation.
2. “THERE HAVE BEEN SOME THINGS ON MY MIND LATELY.”
If you’ve been dealing with a lot, and just need to get it out, ranting to friends/family can be a healthy way to do so. They may even be able to share advice or their own experiences with similar situations or with those feelings/thoughts.
3. VISIT A PROFESSIONAL.
If you’re just feeling different, but don’t exactly know why leave it to a professional to do an assessment. A counselor or therapist can ask you guiding questions to reveal something insightful.
4. “I NEED HELP.”
Plain and simple. If you feel like your emotions/thoughts are progressively getting worse and you need help immediately, voice it. There is someone – a family member, friend, peer, coworker – that will help you get the help that you deserve.
5. CALL A HOTLINE.
Hotlines can provide you with someone to talk to even if you don’t have a trusted figure in your life, or you feel uncomfortable talking to someone you know.
6. START A CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH.
Talking generally about mental health or asking someone about their own experience can lead to sharing your own struggles and the help you want.