When you’re a teen experiencing mental health challenges, a majority of the struggle for help is mustering the courage to actually ask for it. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental illnesses, despite how common they are.
In fact, 20% of teens ages 13 through 18 have some sort of mental health condition. That’s one in five teens! Still, the ever-present stigma can make it harder to ask for help or tell somebody about what you’re going through, because you might feel embarrassed or scared of what people might think of you.
However, mental health conditions — and life in general — are tricky. When we’re struggling, it can be really hard to overcome obstacles by ourselves. Sometimes, we need a little extra help to get by and live our best lives! Here are 6 tips for teens seeking mental health.
Reach out to a trusted adult
I know it’s scary, but one of the best things you can do is to tell an adult what you’re going through. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a parent if you don’t feel comfortable opening up to them just yet. You can reach out to a teacher, coach, or other relative who you feel close to, if you prefer.
You also don’t have to tell them all the details of what you’re going through, if you don’t want to. You can simply start the dialogue by saying “Can I talk to you about some hard things I’ve been dealing with?” or “I’ve been having a really hard time lately, and I think I might want to go to a therapist.” They’ll be glad you reached out to them for help and can support you in taking the next steps. If you’re too shy to bring it up in person, you can send the person a text or write them a note or email.
Use school resources
Many high schools and middle schools have some kind of counselor, whether it be a guidance counselor, psychologist, or social worker. These professionals are trained to help students with any problems they might face. Their offices are safe spaces to discuss what you’re going through.
Ask to schedule an appointment to chat. Depending on the school, your counselor might recommend an outside therapist, or they may be able to set up regular appointments to talk with you. Don’t be shy when reaching out and asking them for help. It’s literally their job to help students!
Join a teen support group
Support groups and group therapy sessions can be really helpful to assist you in feeling less alone. In group settings like this, you’ll meet other teens who are going through the same or similar things that you are. These groups will be hosted and moderated by a professional therapist or psychologist to keep everything safe and healthy.
You can search the Psychology Today support group database to find one in your area. In these groups, you’re not only getting help from a mental health professional, but also from peers who get it.
Call a hotline or write in a chat
If you’re feeling suicidal or like you want to hurt yourself, do not hesitate to call a hotline. Operators are trained to help people in crisis mode and help talk you through things when you feel like you’re at a point of no return. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available and can be called 24/7.
There are also specialized helplines for specific issues such as the National Eating Disorder Association’s helpline, and Love Is Respect’s helpline, which is for people in abusive relationships. If you’re feeling too nervous to talk out loud on the phone, you can use a chat service on your phone or computer, such as Crisis Text Line, where you can connect with a crisis counselor over text. All of these services are free and confidential. However, these aren’t long-term solutions and are not meant to provide you with long-term treatment.
Know there’s nothing to be ashamed of
Asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed of! In fact, you should be proud of yourself for asking for help, because it means you’re brave enough to take the first step in getting better and make a change in your life.
If you were feeling sick with a bad cough, you wouldn’t be ashamed to ask an adult to take you to the doctor, right? You simply feel something’s wrong, and you want to get help to feel better. Look at asking for mental health care the same way you’d look at seeing the doctor for a physical problem.
Remember to help yourself, too
One of the greatest things you can do for your mental health is to take good care of yourself — both emotionally and physically. You may be surprised at the positive effect that some lifestyle changes can have on you.
For example, make sure you eat breakfast before school, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Staying away from drugs and alcohol is crucial. Also, to take care of yourself emotionally, make sure you treat yourself to some self care. This can be something as simple as journaling about your feelings, taking a relaxing bath, or going for a run to clear your mind.
Asking for help is the first step to overcoming your obstacles and facing your mental health issues head on. You don’t have to go through this alone…all you have to do is ask for help.