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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.

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

  1. hey I’m 14 and i think something really bad is happening to me . Over the last few years I’ve been to things like CAMHS , therapy, and a few other places such as cbt training and such, but it never helped me. Back then I was self-harming , and had what my parents called ‘low mood’. I was basically forced to go, and some of the time I refused to go to my sessions and quit shortly after starting. Now, I’m probably about a year out of CAMHS, and I’ve just been getting progressively worse, and no one knows. I’ve found new ways to be self destructive and I can’t help but do them. Drug abuse, smoking, drinking, self harming, not eating for a few days at a time. I’ve started to see things, like hallucinations, such as dark figures in the corner of my vision, and just in general things that aren’t really there. i find myself needing to blink a couple of times when I see things that are out of place to make sure they’re real. I’ve also starting hearing weird noises, like footsteps and scratching. I hear people walking right outside my room sometimes when I know for a fact no ones home. Sometimes when everything is silent if I listen closely I can hear someone breathing or humming. The noises I can block out with music but the things I see are tormenting me, I can never stop looking around rooms, checking behind me, and while I’m not seeing things all the time, it is on a daily basis and it puts me in a constant state of fear and like paranoia. I also get seriously depressed at times. My life as a whole isn’t very positive, I feel quite empty a lot of the time but, I find myself crying uncontrollably, shaking, I have suicidal thoughts frequently and attempted suicide through overdose a few months ago which my parents accused me of just trying to make myself sick so I can stay off school. I haven’t really felt happy in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I was actually happy. It’s like ok seeing the world in black and white, everything is depressing, everything is sad or remorseful or regretful or painful. Or empty. I feel empty a hell of a lot of the time. That’s my state of normal. But when I get sad, it’s pretty much unbareable. Couple that with the cutting, starving myself, hallucinations, fear, hopeless and substance abuse and you have one hell of a mess which is my entire life.

    I want to talk to my parents but both my parents have mental issues themselves, my mum is being unsuccessfully treated for depression and my dad has some anger issues and a kind of ‘what’s the point’ attitude about life. They think I’m fine now. They haven’t got the slightest clue. I don’t want to stress them out anymore. They have a hell of a lot to deal with and I’ve never been the perfect daughter. social services have my name down, in a book somewhere. My mum is training to be a teacher, invested money into it. If I tell anyone eg. School, the doctors social services will have to get involved and my mum almost lost her job last time I had to be in camhs.

    I’m not sure what I expect from it, I know I need help but therapy and cbt has never worked. Idk if there’s medication or something that could help me but it comes at too dear a cost to everyone around me. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m suffering, because then they’ll feel bad, and my parents will suffer more for it too.

    at this point I have no clue what im supposed to do.
    I realise now this is really long and I totally understand if you don’t read or respond, it was worth I try because I’m desperate at this point.

    Also, I’d just like to add that after reading through some of them comments and your replies I think you’re a really wonderful person, giving up your time to help people and I’d like to thankyou so much, because to a lot of people, your help could mean everything to them 🙂 x

    1. Hi Zoe,

      I understand what you’re saying that your parents are under stress already and you don’t want to worry them. But here’s the thing, you’re the child and they’re the parent. You can’t take care of them, they need to take care of you. They would likely say the same thing. They would want to know you were hurting. They wouldn’t want you to be alone and in pain.

      You need to talk to them. You need to get help. You may need medication, you may not. If you do get therapy, please try to use it. Do it as best you can and don’t quit. Remember, therapy can help you but only if you try your best at it.

      Please reach out. Life can get better but you need help to do it.

      – Natasha Tracy

  2. Hi, Im a 13 year old girl and i have a stage 10 borderline personality disorder. my family doesn’t take it as a big deal, they think im just over reacting all teh time. the worry for me and say i should get help, and i agree but i dont want them to worry so i say its fine, when im on the edge of suicide, because cutting doesn’t help me anymore. and then sometimes my family is on the entire different side of me and just insist i grow up and that i make a big deal out of nothing. i want to go to a mental insistue aswell, but i dont know how to even bring up that conversation topic. please help me.

    1. Hi Nicky,

      I know how hard it is to approach the subject of mental illness with your family. The good news is that your family does worry about you so that means they care. And that means they are likely to support your desire for help. I know it’s hard to admit that you need help, but you have to in order to feel better.

      If you feel like it’s too much to talk about going to a psychiatric facility, how about talking about going to a therapist? Someone who specializes in borderline personality disorder in youth could be so helpful for you. Once you do this, the therapist will be on your side if you need to ask for more help.

      You can do this.

      – Natasha Tracy

  3. I am 14 years old and I suffer from anxiety. And think I might be suffering from BPD. I’m not sure how to talk to my parents because I’m afraid that they won’t understand. The last time I tried to talk to my dad caused a huge fight. My mother would always take my dad’s side and it really hurts me. My friends told me to go see a professional and even tried to get me to talk with our guidance counselor to see if she can help. I am afraid that our counselor would think I am over-reacting. Growing up I was a very silent child. I wouldn’t talk to my relatives during family occassions and just sit in the corner. I dont know what to do right now but I really want to get my parents’ support.

    1. Hi Charry,

      I appreciate that you want your parents on your side — who wouldn’t want that? — but you may need to look elsewhere right now and those other sources may be able to help you with your parents. I do recommend seeing a professional in any way you can. Don’t worry about what they’ll think, it’s their job to help. You may also want to call a helpline for more information and advice: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      – Natasha Tracy

  4. I’m a 15 year old student, and i think something is wrong with me, whenever i’m mad i speak hurtful words then regret it afterwards, and feel bad about it, then i’ll cry and blame myself for being stupid, then my crying gets worst to the point that i cant breathe anymore. I want to be alone, then i dont to be alone, i want someone to understand me, as much as i want to understand myself, i dont know how to tell my mom about this because im afraid she wont understand me. I sometimes feel crazy, like i’ll go eat something that I’m allergic with then regret it afterwards, i push people away, i hate people, i feel like they trigger buttons in me that i do not know, i just get mad for no reason, then cry for no reason, feel sad for no reason

    I just want to know what is this?
    I have lost alot of friends, and even teacher in my school hates me already

    1. Hi Rin,

      I can’t diagnose you and no one can from afar. If you want help, I recommend a counselor, like a school counselor, and talking to your parents. You can also talk to your doctor about your concerns and see what he/she says.

      I know those options are tough, but it’s what you have to do.

      – Natasha Tracy

  5. Hello , I’m fifteen and I’ve been struggling with depression for a while. I want to see a psychiatrist but I don’t know how to ask my Mom to take me to one. I’m fairly afraid she’ll just assume I’m being angsty teen or something of that caliber. How do I go about asking her in a way that she’ll understand that I’m not joking?

  6. Hi, i’m 14 years old and I think I have OCD. I don’t know how to tell my mom because my rituals are in my head and I don’t know how to explain it. It gives me extreme anxiety and I can’t sleep or do anything. It gives be trouble breathing. I don’t know what to do and it feels like im going crazy and about to die. I just want the bad thought to go away.

    1. Hi Isa,

      I can understand the concerns you have over telling your parents, but you have to do that if you want help. The bad thoughts can only go away once you get that help. I recommend you have someone help you talk to you parents like a trusted friend or, better yet, a trusted adult. Also, you may wish to call a helpline as they may offer additional support: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      – Natasha Tracy

  7. Hi
    I’m 13 years old and I think I know I have depression and anxiety but I don’t know how to bring it up to my mom. I feel useless and I cut and have suicidal thoughts all of the time. I want to go to a therapist but I don’t know how to say it to my mom. She saw my scars once and she was mad at me but that’s all I can do right now…..I can’t drive I have no access to a doctor or money, I have built up walls of “fake happiness” because I can’t show how I’m feeling without crashing down and havING a panic attack……please give me advise

      1. Hey i am 12
        I pretty sure i have anxiety but my parents think i am realy happy as the anxiety has slowly developed over a few months.At home i am very happy but its at nght and when inam left alone in my bedroom when everything comes
        What do i do?
        My parents will be disappointed if i tell them i have anxiety and im scared to tell them

        1. Hi Thusela,

          I can understand being scared to talk to your parents about anxiety. That’s not an easy thing to do. What you may want to do is to enlist the help of a friend — if you have an adult your trust, so much the better. The person can help you when you talk to your parents. Also, you may wish to call a helpline for further help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

          Good luck. You can do this.

          – Natasha Tracy

  8. I am 14 and i think i have bipolar II, and i went to counciling for what we thought was anxiety and depression but it didnt help so my mom gave up and stopped taking me. My dad is almost always at work so he cant do anything either. It is only getting harder to try and deal with it. It terifies me to even think of asking my mom to take me back into counciling. Only one of my closest friends know and all she can do is provide moral support because she doesnt know what to do.

    1. I was treated for anxiety/depression as a teenager too, and none of that helped. Sometimes I wonder if a lot of doctors don’t want to diagnose kids and teens as being bipolar. I had the symptoms forever but they kept throwing antidepressant after antidepressant at me and nothing worked. Bipolar can and does cause depression AND anxiety. It’s definitely worth further investigation.

      1. Me too, exept when they would try and give me meds. my mom refused them and stopped taking me to see the councilor. I have just kinda learned to just put a brave face on and pretend to be happy and ok, but sometimes it is all consuming. The depression really gets me at night when i am alone in my room, left only to my thoughts, and all my control goes away and i just break. I will just sit there drowning in the thoughts of the sea that is my messed up mind. Thank you for making me feel less alone, and i hope you are doing well Ash.

  9. I’m about to be 15 and I’ve been having very suicidal thoughts for a couple of years now, my families very religious and I’m gay, and I lost my best friend. I thought u was finally getting better but then my mom told me I’m fat and disgusting and it all crashed back down. They won’t support me, they won’t believe me, and the only thing I can do to get my rage out is break things and hurt myself. I have no clue what to do and I know I need mental help and I won’t be able to get it here. I think I might have to run away but I have no money and no where to go because I don’t have any family in state and I only have one friend so they’d immediately know where to go to look for me. I’m trapped and I know I’m gonna do something dumb really really soon.

  10. Hi I’m a 14 years old female, and I need help. I’ve been struggling with suicide thoughts for about 4 months now, and they’re getting worse. I’m scared of myself. I’m scared that I’m actually going to listen to what these thoughts are telling me, it has gotten so bad sometimes I have to blast music in my headphones just to think about it, or I have to hit my head really hard. I really think I need to go to a mental hospital, but idk how to bring it up, or even talk to my parents. My family isn’t close, and it’s summer so I can’t go to my guidance counselor..

    1. Hi Kylie,

      I’m so sorry you’re experiencing these thoughts. I know how difficult it is as I have had those thoughts too. I can understand not knowing how to approach your parents, but you have to. You could also talk to a doctor, if that’s a possibility for you.

      Also, you can call a helpline. We list many, many helplines here: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/

      They may be able to offer you some more help and be supportive when you talk to your parents.

      You can do this.

      – Natasha Tracy

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