By Leah Harris

How to Reach Out for Support When You’re Struggling with Your Mental Healt.

We often hear the term “reach out and ask for help” in social media and marketing campaigns aimed at people with mental health conditions, addictions, or people who are considering suicide. As one lived experience blogger wrote: No matter how well-meaning these people may be, having strangers tell you over and over again to ‘just ask for help’ can sometimes feel like a swift kick in the teeth.”

The reason for this is because anyone who lives with depression, anxiety or other mental health difficulties can tell you just how difficult it can be to reach out, even and especially when you need support the most. As mental health activist and writer Sam Dylan finch notes: “Reaching out is this skill we are somehow expected to know, yet it’s never taught and rarely modeled for us.” Add in that fact that sometimes we also need to educate our loved ones about just how to support us – for example, just listening versus giving advice or pushing solutions. It can all be exhausting to navigate, while just trying to stay above water. This month’s blog provides some insights from lived experience about how to reach out for the support you need and deserve.

1. You do not have to know exactly what you need to ask for help. Sometimes we have no idea what we want or need in a given moment, and that is perfectly OK. Finch offers the following phrase as a possibility when reaching out: “I’m (depressed/anxious/suicidal). I’m not sure what to ask for, but I don’t want to be alone right now.”

2. You do not have to talk about what’s happening to seek support. Sometimes you just might not be ready to “talk about it,” but you also don’t want to be alone. What you may need is someone to simply help distract you from your distress for a little while. Finch suggests in such situations you can say something like, “I’m in a bad place, but I’m not ready to talk about it. Can you help me distract myself?”

3. Create a varied support system. You may have one friend who is amazing at showing up with take-out and making you laugh. Or a peer supporter who is the best listener ever. Make a list of support people in your life and note their specific strengths. Keep this list both in a place where you can see it in your home and that you can easily access on your smart phone, so you don’t have to think about who to reach out to in the midst of a depression or a crisis.

While reaching out can be hard, like any other skill, it does get easier with practice. And by reaching out, you are modeling these skills for others, as well.

Resources to explore and share: