If you are struggling with your mental health — for example, if you
are feeling down or nervous much of the time — it’s important
to talk with your parent or guardian and let them know you need help.
Some conversations are “bigger” than others, and it’s
normal to feel uncertain or worried about sharing something personal or
emotional. So, how do you have this conversation?
Plan What You Want To Say
A good starting place is to think about how you will explain what you are
experiencing. It can be helpful to provide a few specific examples of
what you are feeling to help your parents understand. It’s helpful
to write down some notes in advance to prepare for the conversation. It
may be helpful to let your parents or guardian know in advance that you
are going through something difficult and you’re nervous to bring
it up, but you hope they can understand and help you figure out how to
Find A Private Space To Talk
Try to find a time and place where you can have some privacy, away from
any other family members or distractions. See if you can take a walk or
sit outside together. Ask everyone to leave their cell phones somewhere
else during the conversation.
Explain As Clearly As You Can
Try to be as clear and specific as you can about what you are experiencing,
and give them a chance to ask you questions. If you start feeling overwhelmed
or anxious, it’s ok to pause to take some deep breaths and collect
your thoughts. Try not to let your emotions get in the way of your ability
to describe what is happening. Most importantly, don’t give up and
walk away from the conversation. The more clearly you can describe what
you’re going through, the more likely it is that they’ll be
able to help you.
Discuss Possible Next Steps
It’s ok not to have a plan for what comes next — you can’t
be expected to! Consider asking them if they have suggestions, or even
online resources together to help everyone understand what you are experiencing and for
suggestions about how to find help.
Continue The Conversation
Once you have a plan in place and have taken some steps to feel better,
it’s important to continue talking about this. Maintaining an open,
honest line of communication with your parent or guardian is crucial to
them understanding that you may need more help or support, including making
decisions about speaking to the family doctor or your pediatrician for
Options To Consider If They Are Not Supportive
Even if you do your best to explain what you are going through, there might
be times when your parents or guardian don’t seem to understand
or are not willing to help you get the support you need. This might be
particularly true if they’ve never experienced mental health challenges
themselves or don’t understand them. They may:
- Feel guilty or blame themselves for what you are experiencing
- Be concerned about the cost of getting professional help
- Have issues trusting mental health care clinicians
- Believe that emotional or mental health problems should be dealt with privately,
and that they can be “fixed” through trying harder or prayer
instead of professional treatment
Explain The Effort You’ve Put In
If they do not believe professional mental health care is necessary or
helpful, you might start by letting them know that you have been trying
to manage on your own, but you are still struggling. Ask if they’d
be open to getting you more help in addition to the self-care or other
techniques you have tried. In the same way that we can’t stay healthy
if we eat just one kind of food and need a balanced diet, sometimes we
need to take several approaches at once to get necessary emotional support.
Let Them Know There Are Resources/Affordable Options
It can be hard to find affordable mental health care in some areas. Your
parents or guardian might be worried about being able to pay for your
care or not know how to find a doctor or therapist. It may be helpful
to offer suggestions: your school counselor, pediatrician (or other health
care professional) or faith leader may be able to suggest local resources.
Talk To Someone Else In Your Family/Network
If you’ve tried speaking to your parent or guardian, but can’t
seem to get through to them, try to think of someone else in your family
or community who could “take your side,” either to support
you directly or to speak to your parent or guardian for you.
Is there someone else in your family (like an older sibling, grandparent,
uncle or aunt) who might be more understanding? Is there a close family
friend or faith leader you could talk to? It can be especially helpful
if this person has also experienced mental health challenges and benefitted
from getting help.
If you can’t think of anyone in your family or community, check if
your school has a counselor or social worker. You can meet privately to
speak with them and ask their advice. They may also be able to meet with
your family to try to work out the differences in understanding.
Even if none of these options seem to work, don’t give up. If you
have access to a mobile device or computer, you can connect to free confidential
text-based support through the
Crisis Text Line or other text-based support services. They can help you figure out your options.