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

April 5, 2012 Natasha Tracy

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.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, April 5). How Do I Tell My Parents I Need Mental Health Help?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/04/how-do-i-tell-my-parents-i-need-mental-health-help



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Rebecca
November, 13 2015 at 4:22 am

I'm a 14 year old female and I started self harming about 2 months ago, I think I have some sort of anxiety diorder and possibly depression, I wrote my mum a letter as I don't have the confidence to speak to her but when I was about to give it to her I froze then had a panic attack so I, going to try again but I'm so worried she's going to react badly, if she does what do I do, it might push me to further depression and I have a fear that my self harm will get worse.

imaan
November, 8 2015 at 8:03 am

My parents scolded me soon bad. They don't believe me. Anyone does.
I am pretty upset

Me
October, 19 2015 at 6:05 pm

I think i have selective mutism. I mentioned it to my mom but she said it was all in my head and laughed. It has now been a whole year and i can't take it anymore i SERIOUSLY think there is something wrong with me and I'm too scared to mention it again because I'm super awkward and don't usually talk about my feelings. :(

Anonymous
October, 3 2015 at 1:08 pm

By the way I have panic attacks not only when I feel threatened but in other situations also, and I tend to have suicidal thoughts but never go through with them. I want this feeling to stop but I don't know how to start the conversation without upsetting my mom.

Anonymous
October, 3 2015 at 1:02 pm

I am almost positive I have a phobia of needles, PTSD and maybe panic disorder... My mom has depression and I don't want to tell her that I want to see a doctor because it might upset her... I have done a lot of research about anxiety and I match all of the symptoms for the said disorders. My little brother died when he was 3, I was 7, and every time I go to the doctor and I have to get a shot I have a panic attack and I get flashbacks from when he was in the hospital. Also, I feel like I get overwhelmed easily and if someone at school is rude or mean to me I go to the bathroom and have a panic attack and cry. I don't want anyone to find out and I'm really embarrassed. I don't know what to do

Michael
August, 4 2015 at 11:48 pm

I'm 12 and suffering from bipolar, social anxiety, schexniea (how ever you spell it), paranoia and depression
Imma tell my single mom to make a doctors appointment

Aoi Verdriet
May, 24 2015 at 1:26 pm

I'm a self-diagnosed fifteen year old bipolar female. I suffer from constant moodswings, riskiness, mild depression, and insomnia. I also happen to be an introvert and telling my I might need medical help scares me. My dad would most likely tell me to just deal with it and I'm afraid of what my mother would say. How am I suppose to tell them?

Michelle
April, 10 2015 at 9:33 pm

I'm very sure I have anxiety/panic disorders because I have asked multiple of people in my school but none of them understand what i mean and I think i also have depersonalization disorder and it makes me really uncomfortable. Every time I'm about to tell my parents I break into an anxiety or panic attack and I back out last minute, no one I know of understands me and I'm frustrated because they'll think I'm being dramatic.

Luke
February, 14 2015 at 3:06 am

I think I have bipolar disorder and anxiety I have most of the symptoms of anxiety and a lot of the symptoms of bipolar disorder I'm only 14 and get home schooled and got no clue how to start the conversation.

Michaela
January, 30 2015 at 5:00 am

I am pretty convinced I have a problem. I went to a doctor once when I was caught self harming on my thighs by my mother and I was given Prozac. It was only 20mlg and I didn't feel better at all, so my mom didn't make me take them. I reverted back to self harm after a few months and I got WAY worse. I attempted suicide on my 11th birthday by taking 5 sleeping pills but failed. Nobody knew I tried it until my mom found out but she did nothing but get mad at me for 'punishing' her. I started cutting worse than before and I now have deep scars. Whenever I get in a fight with my mom or anyone, or I feel out of control I feel like I'm hyperventilating and the urge to self harm is indescribable. And my parents just keep prodding at a already bleeding wound by yelling. I'm TERRIFIED of talking to them about anything because they never take anything well. It always ends in them yelling at me and saying that I'm doing this to myself to punish them for parenting and that I'm using my cutting as a threat to them. I do not know how to talk to them. I'm almost positive I have depression and possibly an anxiety disorder. Help.

Baka
January, 29 2015 at 7:59 pm

Thanks for this article. I'm going to try it... But I'm still kinda nervous. I have no idea how they will react. I'm probably gonna take it really slow.

Amanda
September, 13 2014 at 4:12 am

Okay, so I think I'm suffering from depression and anxiety. I don't know bc I haven't seen my doctor or a counselor. When I have panic attacks, my mom gets upset at me and won't let me go away alone like I need to. Because of this, I'm super scared she'll react similar to this news. Plus, I have a friend who suffered depression and was cutting, and she told me that I shouldn't be friends with someone who can't even love themselves. I knew that was extremely wrong. But now that I'm going through similar things as that friend, I'm scared to how she'll react.
Now you have to understand, my mom is super supportive, but this is a lot different then getting a bad grade or having a fight with a friend. I'm only 13, so I can't arrange an appt with a doctor first... What/how should I handle this?? I'm terrified. No one else knows except me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
September, 13 2014 at 5:15 am

Hi Amanda,
I'm so sorry you're going through this. It's really tough. In your case, because you're in school, you might want to start with a school counsellor. They can't diagnose you, but they can help you get the help you need or arrange a conversation between you and your mom and the counsellor. Also, I think you can arrange a doctor's appointment without your parent. Yes, I know you're young, but if you need to, go to a walk-in clinic. Also, there are helplines available to point you towards more local sources of help for you. http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referr…
What I'm saying is that you have lots of options and you're not alone.
Thanks for reaching out here and I hope you get the help you need - whatever that may be.
- Natasha Tracy

Patti
June, 1 2013 at 4:12 pm

I'm 43 years old and just finally found within me acceptance of being "bipolar". And praise God for my new journey that I started three weeks ago that make seeing the sun shine through the drapes in morning a true blessing... The new medication I'm on is what I attribute my beginning stages of healing something I look forward to...

Namesdon't Matter
May, 19 2013 at 1:22 pm

hey i've been depressed for a while and i've taken a couple of online test that say i'm probably schizophrenic im kind of terrified of telling my parents cause they have never understood me well and i was wondering if there was a way around telling the.

Bronwyn
May, 5 2013 at 11:56 pm

I have tried talking to my parents and they have just brushed it off and made me feel worse, but then they get annoyed at me when my mood changes suddenly and I don't know want to participate with anyone. Then recently my school councillor said that the best thing is to tell them and they'll understand. So she said she is going to try and talk my mum into take me to at least a GP so they can see what they think but I'm worried she is going to react badly.

Rene R
May, 5 2013 at 5:28 pm

um iv been wanting to tell my parents i think im bipolar for a while and i think i have a slight case of multipule personality disorder but i dont know what to tell them iv brought it up before in the past but they though i was beging over dramatic and for a while my situation has become out of hand and i dont know what to do can u help me?

Natasha Tracy
April, 28 2013 at 8:07 am

Hi Jacob,
I actually think this is pretty common. I would recommend going to a school counsellor and/or your family doctor and working from there.
It's unfortunate you don't have family support, but that doesn't mean you can't get help. Also keep in mind that some helplines are specifically for youth and they can help too.
- Natasha Tracy

Jacob
April, 28 2013 at 7:46 am

what about totally unsupportive parents? the ones that feel like they're being insulted by the idea their kid might need help, or one that laughs it off?
How does one get help when their parents are part of the problem?

Megan
March, 3 2013 at 1:34 pm

I'm pretty sure I'm bipolar. I heard my stepmom talk about it when I was younger and I looked on the internet and I have a lot of the symptoms. My parents and I don't get along and if I try to tell them they would say I am being over dramatic. It has become too much and I can't handle it any more. I don't know what to do now.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sophia
March, 30 2017 at 8:24 pm

Hi Megan. I'm in the same exact position as you. I don't know if you'll ever see this but you're not alone. My mother had asked me if I was depressed and I said no. I later on figured out I was bipolar and now I don't know how to tell them, and I'm afraid.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jessica
July, 30 2018 at 3:37 pm

the same exact thing happened with me, I told my mother that im heavily depressed and no way out, and she laughed at me and told me im not.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Maya
December, 4 2018 at 6:22 pm

My parents say im over reacting too. Just now other people go through this as well.

Dreamer
January, 20 2013 at 7:55 am

Thanks for sharing this. I've been struggling with what I suspect is a mental a health problem for over a year now without telling my parents because I had no idea how to talk to them about it or how they'd react.
I'm finally going to try now though. Hopefully I can find a way to get help now because it's been torture up until now.

mef123
April, 6 2012 at 12:29 am

I can only imagine how hard it is for a child/teenager to tell their parents about mental illness. I suffered throughout my 20's and didn't get diagnosed until 32 years old. I suffered because I was afraid. Afraid of what people would think and afraid of reality. But it was the best thing I did, it was like having a weight lifted.
Michele

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

sydney
November, 6 2018 at 10:01 pm

i match up with a lot of symptoms for severe bi polar 2 but i don’t want to tell my parents until i’m 100% sure because my dads mom had bi polar and i think it will be a trigger for him to bring this back up. should i talk to my doctor alone during my next check up?

November, 13 2018 at 10:07 am

Hi Sydney,
I can understand being concerned about your parents' reaction, that's very caring of you. However, you should remember that they are the parents and you are the child. It is their job to take care of you and not the other way around.
That said, you should talk to a professional about this as soon as possible. Yes, talking to your doctor is one option and if you feel comfortable with that, please do that as soon as you can. You could also talk to a school counselor.
If you do have bipolar disorder, the sooner you are treated, the better. Please don't wait.
- Natasha Tracy

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