I personally struggled a lot with anxiety and low mood while I was a teenager and I struggled even more when I wanted to ask for help with my mental health. It is part of the reason I wanted to work in a children and young people’s mental health service and why I am now training as a Children’s Wellbeing Practitioner here at Changing Futures North East. There is often a stigma associated with mental health, and I didn’t want to come across as a ‘wimp’ or a ‘wuss’, like I was attention seeking or being over-dramatic and I let these thoughts hold me back from talking to someone about it.
From the training I have received and my experience working with young people, I’ve realised that these negative thought patterns are a common thing, especially when it comes to reaching out for support. It’s important to know that even if you feel like it’s “not that bad” or that you don’t want to worry anyone, your thoughts and feelings are valid and your voice matters. The earlier you reach out, the easier it can be to learn to cope with your mental health.
It’s completely understandable that starting a conversation about your mental health would be difficult and a hard thing to do. It’s very common for young people to avoid this type of conversation because it can cause a lot of anxiety and worries around not being taken seriously, not wanting to get upset or not using the right words.
Before you start thinking about how to start a conversation around mental health, it could be a good idea to think about which adult you feel safe enough and trust enough to tell. Here are some suggestions:
- A parent or carer
- Another trusted adult in your family
- A friend’s parent or carer
- A teacher or a staff member you trust at school/college (e.g a school counsellor or school nurse etc.)
- A sports coach or leader of a club you go to (e.g. scouts/girl guiding)
- A religious leader (e.g priest, vicar, rabi, imam etc.)
It’s always a good idea to check with your trusted adult whether or not they will keep what you tell them private before you talk to them. It’s important to keep in mind that if you tell an adult who isn’t in your family (e.g. a teacher or sports coach) about any self-harm or suicidal thoughts, they might have a legal responsibility to tell your parent(s)/carer(s) about it, in order to keep you safe. Remember though, it is completely up to you what you tell someone and how much detail you go into. You are in control and only have to tell them what you are comfortable with sharing.
As a suggestion, it may be a good idea to write everything you want to say down beforehand. You can then give it to the trusted adult to read or you can use it as notes while you talk to them. Good things to include are; what it is that you’re struggling with, how long it has been happening for, how it makes you feel and how you would like them to help you. This help can range from helping you talk to your parents or going to your GP, to seeking therapeutic support for your mental health. If starting this conversation face-to-face with someone is too daunting, you could potentially write a letter instead and leave it for them to read when you’re not around (or send them an email/text message). You could suggest in that letter that they approach you about the issue, rather than the other way around, if you would prefer that. Childline has a great letter template you can download here, if you would like some more help.
It’s OK to ask for help. If you are over 16 years old, and think you would benefit from some mental health and wellbeing support, you can self-refer to our Children’s Wellbeing Team through this link here. If you are under 16 years old, you will have to ask a parent to refer you as we will need parental consent. Along with the tips given above here are some links to other pages on how to talk to a trusted adult about your mental health:
If you are in crisis and feel you need immediate support you can find it through the services below:
- Samaritans (suicide hotline) - Call 116 123
- Shout (Crisis Text Line) - Text SHOUT to 85258
- Childline - Call 0800 1111
- If it’s an emergency call 999 or 111
*Illustration By Chris Madden-Madden Illustration