Asking For Help

Having spent the last five years supporting young people at a high school in St Albans I have come to realise that asking for help is a long way from as simple as it sounds.

Why is it that so many will find themselves in crisis before reaching out for help? Why do so many of us struggle with letting someone know we are in need of additional support?

Social media platforms are full of people talking about mental health and promoting the idea of self-care – there seem to be so many talking the talk (particularly amongst our young). Why do so few walk the walk?

Here are some of the common phrases I hear from my clients:

“There’s no point talking to my friends / family – they won’t understand”

“I just haven’t got the time”

“I don’t want to be a burden on others”

“Talking to someone won’t change anything or make my problem go away”

“I don’t want to be judged” / “I don’t want to be labelled” / “I don’t want people to look at me differently”

And to be fair there are degrees of validity in some of those experiences. However it is not the whole truth and I think this is where we often get confused. Because if we spend our lives trying to do everything on our own, trying to protect one single self-image, assuming others won’t or don’t want to understand, we are going to start to feel pretty anxious. Because that stuff is fragile and lonely and deep down we know it.

Resilience isn’t about never falling over. It’s about knowing what do to when we do fall over and how we get back up again. And very often to get back up we need to reach out for a helping hand. Whether that’s a professional in counselling, a friend, family member, colleague you feel close to or even a complete stranger.

We are innately social beings. We crave validation, love and nurture from the minute we arrive in the world. As we grow and mature I feel we risk losing the belief in our right to those experiences. And society often doesn’t help; implying that we need to be perfect, super-human almost, and that anything less is failure.

For me, learning how and when to ask for help can set us up for life. And the earlier we learn that skill the better the outcome.

So when you hear that voice in your head telling you not to share your pain with that person. Stop for a moment, challenge that thinking and try and pull yourself up rather than push yourself down. Know that you and your experiences are valuable, not because of what you do but because of your own unique significance. You don’t have to struggle on your own. The other person might not be able to fix your problem or make it go away but talking does help, it can make a problem seem less daunting or troubling. It might offer you a different perspective that is reassuring or comforting. It might, just for a moment, offer you intimacy.

Being vulnerable can feel scary, there is always the risk of rejection. But just like falling in love, if we don’t allow ourselves to go there, we deny ourselves something beautiful both for ourself and the other.