The first step, and often the hardest, is telling someone how you’re feeling. Sometimes it’s hard to put our feelings into words so explaining it to someone else can feel like a really daunting task. Talking it through can actually help you to clarify those thoughts and feelings and speaking with someone who is trained in counselling or supporting people with their emotions, means you will be given the space to really think through what it is you are feeling and what you can do to move forward. Samaritans, PAPYRUS, CALM and SANE all have free helplines you can call, and speak with someone who can help you work out how you can take that really important first step of sharing your feelings.
Who do you share them with? That might be the next big question you’re asking yourself. There are lots of different people you could approach to ask for help from, but only you know the people you have relationships with, and who you’ll find it easiest to talk to.
Who can I talk to?
Your parents or guardian
A lot of young people don’t want to tell their parents how they are feeling because they don’t want to ‘burden’ them and don’t want them to worry. Despite the fact that some people have challenging relationships with their parents, for the most part, and despite those challenges, parents want their children to be happy and would do everything they could to support their child. In fact, most parents, no matter what they may have said in the heat of the moment, would be devastated to know their child didn’t feel able to come to them when they most needed help. So, if that’s you, know that you are not a burden and they can handle it - what they won’t be able to handle is losing you, so talk to your parents or guardian and let them know if things are really difficult for you. Let them know if you feel pressure so they can help relieve that pressure - especially if they have been the ones causing that pressure. They can’t help if they don’t know. Ditch The Label have put together a short guide on how to talk to your parents about mental health.
A trusted person within education
This could be your teacher, your form tutor, your university lecturer, the head of pastoral care or a teaching assistant you get on with well. As well as providing support, they can help remove some academic pressure and refer you to, or help you to find, services that can support you. As with your parents, your teachers can’t help if they don’t know but they can do a lot to help if they do. Studying can often feel pressurised and it can feel like there are lots of expectations of you. Your teachers can help you manage the different schedules and commitments you have but only if they are aware that they have become problematic.
Your GP talks to people who are struggling with their emotions all the time and should be able to offer you advice and refer you to a range of appropriate therapies. That may include medication but more often than not it might be a talking therapy like CBT - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. If needed they would also be able to refer straight to the mental health crisis team. It’s common for people to think, “Oh, I don’t want to bother my GP with this, there’s other people out there that need that appointment more”, or that they don’t really have a reason for feeling the way they do so don’t have a right to support - which by the way is not the case. Some people are very nervous about seeing their GP and are fearful of what may happen afterwards. If you are nervous, have questions or want advice on speaking to your GP, charity Mental Health Foundation has put together a guide on talking to your GP about mental health as well as a checklist for helping you get ‘Doc Ready’. Rethink have also put together a guide on persuading someone to speak to their GP which you can access here.
We understand that sometimes it’s just easier to talk to your peers about things that are troubling you. Whatever the situation, talking about your feelings instead of bottling them up can be helpful. We can feel really alone when we are struggling, and sharing problems with friends can help, especially when we realise, we are not alone and other people feel or have felt like this too. If you feel like your friends wouldn’t understand or you don’t want to share with them, then there are many communities where people who live with mental illness can come together to support and listen to each other. Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can be yourself in a safe place to listen, share and be heard.
There are many other adults that you can turn to and ask for help such as youth workers, counsellors or charities who provide workers such as MIND. You may already be under the care of a healthcare professional, or are seeing a counsellor or working with a youth worker. All these people can help support you and help you find other services that can help. Charities such as MIND have local branches and usually these branches run a variety of programmes that people can self-refer to. Their programmes cover things like life skills, creative classes, support groups and much more. You can find your local MIND here.
What help is out there?
This can include counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and can be used in conjunction with medication. While antidepressants can treat the symptoms of depression, they don't always address its causes. This is why they're usually used in combination with therapy to treat more severe depression or other mental health conditions caused by emotional distress. During talking therapies, a trained counsellor or therapist listens to you and helps you find your own answers to problems, without judging you. The therapist will give you time to talk, cry, shout or just think. It's an opportunity to look at your problems in a different way with someone who will respect you and your opinions.
There are many National and local helplines that give you the opportunity to talk about how you’re feeling, share your problems and find out how you can access more support. PAPYRUS HOPELineUK is manned by suicide prevention advisers who are mental health professionals trained in suicide prevention intervention skills. Samaritans helpline is answered by trained volunteers who will listen to you and help you talk through your concerns, worries and troubles. CALM offer accredited confidential, anonymous and free support, information and signposting for men anywhere in the UK through their helpline. The SANEline is a National out-of-hours mental health helpline offering specialist emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. In 2019 Shout launched in the UK. Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. Shout is powered by a team of volunteers, who are at the heart of the service. They take people from crisis to calm every single day. You can find more helplines on a wide variety of subjects in our services directory.
Community mental health support
Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) support people living in the community who have complex or serious mental health problems and are made up of different mental health professionals. If you feel you are in crisis, you may be referred to a Crisis Team. A crisis team can help in different ways. They will carry out an assessment to find out if they can help you. In the assessment they might ask questions about how you’re feeling, what has happened and your mental health history.
A crisis house might be a good option for you if your home environment isn't a safe place for you to be overnight or if things at home are part of your crisis but it's not suitable for you to be admitted to hospital. Crisis houses usually offer overnight accommodation and intensive treatment. Each crisis house will vary slightly, and you might find some services described as a 'sanctuary' or 'safe haven'. MIND have put together a list of crisis houses so you can find one local to you here.
This can take many shapes such as support groups, online groups and mentoring schemes and may be defined as the help and support that people with lived experience of a mental illness or a learning disability are able to give to one another. It may be social, emotional or practical support but importantly this support is mutually offered and reciprocal, allowing peers to benefit from the support whether they are giving or receiving it. MIND have put together a Peer Support Directory to help you find something that is local to you.
Antidepressants work by increasing levels of a group of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. SSRIs (a type of antidepressants) can ease depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters that carry signals between brain cells and helps make us feel good. SSRIs block the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available. SSRIs also may be used to treat conditions other than depression, such as anxiety disorders. Because medications all have side effects, antidepressants are not always the first choice for treating depression, especially in young people. While antidepressants can treat the symptoms of depression, they don't always address its causes. Therefore, they're usually used in combination with therapy. Sometimes the first type/dose of a medication might not feel beneficial. Antidepressants usually need to be taken for at least 1 or 2 weeks (without missing a dose) before the benefits start to be felt. It’s important not to stop taking them if you get some mild side effects early on, as these effects usually wear off quickly. If you are experiencing prolonged side effects or do not feel any benefits from medication, it’s really important you speak to your GP about your experiences as they may suggest trying a different dose or medicine. Mind have an information section on drugs and treatments which contains further information.
Self-help and Online resources
Self-help has some advantages over professional face-to-face counselling. It's convenient, cheap, and you can do it in your own time and when it suits you. Self-help can also be a useful first step if you're unsure whether or not to seek further help. There are many great resources out there to get you started. One of our favourites is by Anxious Lass AKA Kel, who lives with social anxiety and depression. Our second favourite has been compiled by On My Mind which is a co-production between The Anna Freud Centre and young people themselves. They have drawn up a list of strategies young people use for self-care. MIND have compiled a whole host of tips for everyday living because when you live with mental illness it can make every day even harder. If you search on Pinterest for “manage mental illness” there are loads of tips and advice pins for you to browse through. Have a look at the apps within our services directory for more every day ways to incorporate self-help into your daily routine. Rethink have created over 100 factsheets covering topics ranging from benefits support to specific mental illness such as Borderline Personality Disorder. Mind know that the mental health system can be complicated, and it can be hard to know where to go for support. They have made some guides to help you decide what the best option for you is.
How do I say it?
So, now you know who you can talk to, and what help is available, what do you say? Where do you start? Maybe your head has gone completely blank, or maybe you’ve got one hundred different things you want to say and don’t know where to begin. You may find it easier to just let the conversation flow, but you may find it helpful to plan and note down some of the key things you want to mention.
You may want to think about when and where you are going to talk to your confidant. Will it be face to face, over the phone or by email?
Think about anything that is particularly important to you so that they understand. You may also want to consider what it is you want as a result of the conversation - is it just that you want to confide in them or is there something specific they can do for you.
There are lots of blog posts out there that look at how to talk to people about your mental health, such as how to talk to your partner. Time To Change have created a series of videos looking at opening up about mental health. Ditch The Label have put together a short guide on how to talk to your parents about mental health. If you’re employed, you might also want to consider talking to your boss or the HR Team. We know that could be very daunting so read here to see how to go about it.
When things don’t go as planned
So, you’ve been to the doctors, or had your first appointment with your counsellor or seen another professional and you’ve come away feeling disappointed. Maybe there was no rapport, or you feel wholeheartedly you’ve already tried their advice or that it wasn’t helpful. What do you do now? Relationships, with your therapist, your doctor or any other professional are no different to our personal relationships when it comes to whether we gelled with them. A fact of life is we don’t naturally get on with everyone we meet, and this is no different when it comes to professionals.
If you feel that the person you saw isn’t the right person to continue with you on your journey for support, it is perfectly okay to ask to see another. Do not feel that because the first person you saw wasn’t right, no one will be. We don’t give up on dating after our first break up, and the same goes for professional support. You are able to ask to see another GP, counsellor, youth worker to find the person that is the best fit to support you, so don’t give up.