How to Talk to Your Parents About Mental Health Issues
There are lots of good reasons, and ways, to get guidance from the adults in your life
We all go through hard times. Sometimes it's as clear-cut as a broken bone or being overlooked for a part in the school play. Other times, our 99 problems may include something deeper and more mysterious to us, like a mental health issue we're having trouble understanding and dealing with on our own. But as a teen, how do you approach adults to get your point across without freaking them out?
First of all, realize that lots of people struggle with mental health. You may be surprised by how many. Asking for help doesn't make you weak. In fact, knowing when you can no longer handle something on your own is actually a sign of incredible wisdom and strength.
"Many times, teenagers are worried that their parents may judge them for not being able to manage their own struggles, not to mention many teens feel shame around their feelings," says Dr. Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist and adolescent specialist in Newport Beach, California.
Becky Fein, Associate Director of Programs at Active Minds, a national non-profit that focuses on action and student advocacy in mental health, says, "Teens may be concerned that they won't be believed or understood, or that what they are going through isn't bad enough to share with someone they see as an authority figure."
Do these descriptions sound like you? If so, push ahead anyway. Parents, guardians (or another trusted adult like a relative or school counselor) likely care more than you think.
A face-to-face conversation is best, but if that seems too direct and scary, consider an alternate form of communication. Weichman says, "I recommend having teens research online the symptoms of their particular challenge or issue, print it out, check the boxes that apply. Then leave the sheet for parents along with a note saying something along the lines of ‘I've been struggling with this for ____many months/years and I can't take it anymore. Please help me get help for this. Let's discuss later.'"
If your chosen adult doesn't respond the way you hope, don't give up. Fein suggests, "If your parents or guardians aren't responding to your calls for support in a way that is helpful, keep searching for support until you find what works for you. Check your school campus for student groups or clubs where young people are courageously creating conversations among peers. Reach out to another trusted adult or a friend and let them know that you are having a hard time; they care and they want to be there for you." If you don't feel there is a trusted adult available, reach out to a 7 Cups listener.
Weichman says, "Mental health needs to be treated like a headache." If your pain, physical or emotional, doesn't go away, it's time to call in older people with life experience and resources.
There is so much hope for you and your situation. Just take the first step and ask.
Crisis resources: Crisis Text Line: text "BRAVE" to 741-741 and you'll immediately be connected with someone via text who is there for you.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-373-8255.