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How Do I Tell My Parents I Need Mental Health Help?

Mental health is something that matters whether you’re seven, seventeen and seventy, and any of those ages can fall victim to a mental illness. Depression, for example, is quite prevalent and undertreated in the elderly.

But if you’re underage, it may be more difficult than just going to your doctor to start the process of getting help for your mental health. It likely means explaining your mental health concerns to your parents; which, quite reasonably, is scary to a young person. (It’s scary to an old person too, but I digress.)

So how do you tell your parents you think you need mental health help?

What Makes You Think You Need Help?

It’s absolutely possible to be underage and need mental health help and it’s absolutely possible that you, as an underage person, might be the one to realize it before your parents. After all, only you know how you are feeling inside.

But it’s important to sit down for a moment and think, logically about why you think you need help. No doubt, you have your reasons, but it’s important to think critically about what they are so that you can communicate them to your parents (and then, later, to a healthcare professional).

Write Down Your Reasons

Now that you’ve got your thoughts straight, write down what you want to say to your parents. I don’t say this because I think you need another piece of homework, I say this because it can be very intimidating and anxiety-causing to talk to your parents and you might forget what you want to say. This happens to everyone. During that all-important conversation the points you want to make just fly out of your head. And take a look at it from your parent’s perspective – if you can’t tell them what’s wrong, how can they help you?

Get Ready to Talk

Now that you’re clear on your part of the conversation, make a plan on when and how to talk to your parents. Hopefully you can find a time when there’s no pressure to be somewhere or do something. Maybe talk to one parent alone if you feel more comfortable with that.

And make sure you have support people to back you up if things don’t go well. Hopefully things will go well and you’ll get what you need from your parents, but if they don’t, friends you can call can make all the difference in the world. Your school counselor might be another resource you can use for support during this time.

Talk to Your Parents

Then it’s time to have the talk. Try to be calm and act rationally, if you can. You might not be able to, and that’s OK too, just do your best.

If you’re really concerned that things will blow up when you talk to your parents, consider writing them a letter and giving it to them with a few hours to digest it before you talk.

Get Help

The goal of talking to your parents is to get help so that is the next step. Keep in mind, your parents might not know what to do – that’s OK, adults aren’t perfect and sometimes we’re as confused as anyone else.

So maybe you can suggest what kind of help you need. Do you need an eating disorder specialist? Do you need inpatient treatment for an addiction? Do you want to talk to a psychologist? Do you think you have a mental illness and should see a doctor? Do you need emergency help because you’re afraid you might hurt yourself?

Any of those things are OK. All kinds of help are out there and whatever you need is what you should ask for. If in doubt, see your family doctor and get a referral from there.

Parents Aren’t Perfect

I probably don’t need to tell you this but parents aren’t perfect and they might not reach out with the love and support you deserve. But remember, you do deserve those things and your parents might just need a bit of time with this new information before they can give them to you.

And please remember that help is always available, no matter what. These helplines can get you started.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

164 thoughts on “How Do I Tell My Parents I Need Mental Health Help?”

  1. Hi my name is anonymous,ever since day one I was this loud ,energetic kid who would never be quiet I experienced an awful lot such as start of yr7 I hanged with messed up girl group who practically controlled whatever I do,it took awhile but I desperately tried getting a way from the girl group I finally did I started having strong mood swings for the past six months feeling hopeless and etc . My mum is a scrict religious mother who. Won’t believe a word I say.i want to tell someone and get diagnosis but my friends shut me down and I and cared to tell the school counsellor I want to tell someone please help

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I’m so sorry, that sounds hard.

      Please remember, in order to get help, you have to reach out. You have to tell an adult who can help you. I can understand being afraid, but without doing that, you can’t get help.

      If you’re concerned about talking to the school counselor, try talking to a helpline first: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      A helpline cannot diagnose you but they can support you and point you towards resources. Note that you do not have to be suicidal to call.

      I know when your parents aren’t supportive it’s really hard but you can get through this, you have to reach out for help first.

      – Natasha Tracy

  2. im 20 years old, feel genderless, have tons of mental problems yet have no one to talk with irl, parents are the over religious closed mind strict parents, when i told them about slight problem i have they turned it into religious lecture, can’t talk with them about anything cuz it always turn into religious lecture, what to do? i need help, ive need that for like 10/11 years and i no longer can tolerate it anymore

  3. Uhh hi. I’m 13, nearly 14.
    I think I need help, but am still scared to do so even after reading this article.
    I think I have Bipolar, and have been experiencing what i think to be quite extreme mood swings for some time. I came to this website today because I just got over a really big mood swing. This mood change made it so I’ve fallen out with my father and oldest sibling. I blew up. I have no idea where to turn, since my school doesn’t have a counsellor. All of my friends either won’t listen, won’t care, or are experiencing their own mental health issues. I don’t know where to turn. Frankly speaking, I’ve f***ed myself over.

    I’m normally quite.. bland. I don’t tend to show much emotion. My mood swings come positive AND negative. Sometimes I’m elated and giggly, other times I’m thinking about self harming and I don’t know what to do about it.
    My dad will flip out if he finds out, because he’s really mad and I don’t think he really cares about me, but my mum isn’t in the country, and I don’t live with her anymore. I have a step-mum, but I don’t really know her that well, and I think she’s just hanging around because my dad and her have their own 3yr old daughter.
    I don’t know what to do, and I’m so sick of it all.

    1. Hi Bee,

      I’m so sorry you’re in this position. I know how hard it is to be young and facing mental health challenges.

      If possible, pick an adult in your life to tell, even if that person is outside your family. That person may be able to help you talk to your family, as you will likely need their support in order to see a doctor/therapist.

      There are also many helplines to call, many specifically for youth. You do not have to be suicidal to call. They can listen to your story and give you suggestions about what to do next: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      Please remember that while it’s hard right now, help is out there and you can get it even though it may be hard.

      – Natasha Tracy

  4. Im 15. And ive been struggling with depression and selfharm. Now also been smoking weed. But it hasnt helped. Self harm getting worse. I still dont know how to tell my parents i need to go to a mental hospital..

    1. Hi Jace,

      I’m very sorry you’re in this situation and struggling this way. Please know that smoking weed will not help and will possibly make things worse.

      Please reach out. If you feel like you can’t talk to your parents, talk to a doctor or your school counselor. They may be able to help you talk to your parents.

      Also, you can call a helpline any time. Please reach out before harming yourself: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      Know that things can get better but you need to reach out for help first.

      – Natasha Tracy

  5. I am 14 years old and I think that I have a disorder called Skin Pickung Disorder or Dermatillomania. Not many doctors have heard of it and my mum is quite scary. I am scared of my mum and i don’t want to tell her that I have it because last time she said that she didn’t believe me and that it isn’t true. I want to tell her as it is causing visible wounds on my body and scarring. What should I do?

  6. M 22 soon turning 23 …..I have been suffering from anxiety from a long time …I panick often ….at night I hear voices which are not really there and harm myself when I am angry from last two days its getting worst I think negatively and fight and blame others and then I can’t stop crying ….I am close to my mom n tried to talk to her but she does not exactly know what to do .I need help or I ll end up my professional and personal life …pls help

    1. Hi Praneet,

      You need to reach out for medical help. You can do this through your family doctor. I suspect you are not in North America so it’s difficult to make additional recommendations.

      – Natasha Tracy

  7. Hi I’m 16 and I’ve been depressed ever since I was around 11-12 and I’ve hurt myself in many ways over those years (cuts, burns, etc.) and attempted suicide once. I’m not close with my parents and they know about my problems and that I cut and that I attempted but they ignore it and pretend like it didn’t happen. I attempted over a year ago and then I thought I got better but the past couple months I’ve been getting worse and I don’t know what to do. I want to get help and see if there’s something actually mentally wrong with me but I don’t know/want them to be a part of my recovery.

    1. Hi Joelle,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re depressed and self-harming. I know how hard that is. I was that way at 16, too. I’m also sorry your parents didn’t respond in a helpful way.

      If you’re 16, you can probably see a doctor by yourself, so you may wish to discuss your concerns with a doctor. Also, I recommend you seek out a school counselor for help.

      Finally, you can call a helpline for additional support and resource referrals. See here for numbers: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      Remember, you don’t have to be suicidal to call a helpline.

      Good luck. You can get through this.

      – Natasha Tracy

  8. umm. just like i dont know how to talk to my parents, i dont know how to start writing here. i turned 19 two days ago. and ive been attempting suicide since i was 17. sooo many fail attempts. i really want to die but firstly im scared of it a little and secondly i thinks thers still hope at the end of the tunnel. im the only child and i get REALLY LONELY in my house. theres nobody to talk to and my parents arent really interested in my life. i had wonderful friends but i showly lost them one by one as i reached Alevels. nobody showed up at my birthday party that i planned recently. im ready to cut off with everyone. feels like ive been left alone in this big quiet world full of backstabbers. ive got a really nice boyfriend who cares for me and supports me too but being with him makes me feel like im cheating on my mother. and with a heavy heart i decide to leave my super caring boyfriends for a mother who doesnt even care for me like he does

  9. I’ve always felt empty inside since I was in 2nd grade. I’ve been attempting suicide since I was 10 yrs old (I’m 13) My parents think I’m just doing it for attention. There are times where I feel like I’m watching someone else’s life. I hate my life even more because I am bisexual and my parents hate all people who are LGBTQ+ and think they should die. I can’t talk to a counselor because you need permission from a parent. I don’t know what to do and I’m so sick of living.

  10. Hi I’m 14, I’ve been bottling up the fact that I’m think I have depression or anxiety for around half a year. I only recently spoke to a friends older sibling about it as she found me crying to my friend at a party who I had just told my worries to. They are the only people I’ve told, and they said I needed to tell a family member. I’m scared to tell them not because of how they’d react but because I don’t know where to start as I’m not particularly close with my parents, how do you start a difficult conversation like that?

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