5 Steps to Getting the Support You Need and Deserve

Woman comforts a woman in distress

Having a mental health issue can be very isolating. You may feel like no one understands the pain and despair you experience. Because of this, you might keep your condition to yourself, confiding in no one. This is not uncommon.

The stigma surrounding mental health doesn’t help. Many people are hesitant to open up about their struggles out of concern for being judged and thus go to great lengths to hide their conditions from coworkers, friends, even family members.

People with depression and anxiety, among other issues, often isolate because of lack of energy or because they are unsure how to get support. Being open about a mental health condition constitutes taking a risk, which can feel scary. Not everyone may be supportive, some people don’t know how to help, and some people in your life may choose to remain ignorant.

A mental health condition has nothing to do with what kind of person you are. It doesn’t mean you overreact to things, that you’re “just” feeling down, that you’re incompetent, that you’re weak, or that you’re “crazy.” Just as people who struggle with a physical health issue need and deserve support, people with a mental health issue need and deserve the same.

Contacting a therapist is a great step in the right direction, of course, as a professional is best positioned to help you understand the factors contributing to what you’re feeling and can point you toward helpful resources. He or she can’t replicate the compassion and empathy of close friends or family members, however.

So how can you find the support you need? Here are five considerations to help you get what you need when you need it most.

  1. Learn as much as you can about your condition so you can explain to others what you experience. Many people’s only source of information about mental health is what is portrayed in the media, which more often than not is inaccurate or even demeaning. But if you can describe what it’s like to live with bipolar, for example, you can inform others and help them understand how they can best support you. By educating yourself, you can educate others.
  2. Identify someone you think might be a support to you. Whether a friend or family member, this should be a person you trust, who has displayed compassionate tendencies in the past. Again, not everyone will understand, want to understand, or be able to help.
  3. Think about what you hope to get out of the conversation you will have with this person. Are you looking for someone to vent to (“Work was so rough today that I spent 30 minutes in the bathroom crying”), or would you like help solving a problem (“I’m so anxious that I need help getting to the grocery store”)? Be specific about what you need and why you need it: “I’m feeling really stressed right now and could really use someone to talk to,” or, “My depression is making it hard for me to get out of bed each day and take care of my house and family. Do you have any suggestions?” Practice asking for what you need.
  4. Recognize that some people may be better at supporting you than others. The first person you confide in may not understand. Keep sharing until you’ve found the person or people who can support you. If someone you asked for help cannot follow through, understand that it’s not something you’re doing wrong. They may be dealing with their own struggles and simply not have enough energy or wisdom to help you with yours.
  5. Don’t rely on just one person. Try to build a support network, one person at a time. This way, if one friend or your partner can’t talk right away, there are others you can reach out to.

It should not go unacknowledged that, for some people, finding support is exceedingly difficult. People whose pool of family and trusted friends is limited or nonexistent may feel like they have no one to turn to. However, there is always someone who not only will listen but wants to listen—whether it’s a therapist, a pastor or church member, or someone who volunteers for a crisis line. There is always support. The key is summoning the strength to ask for it, something everyone must do at one time or another.

Mental health conditions are very common, so keep sharing; chances are, sooner or later someone you confide in will have dealt with their own struggles. You shouldn’t have to go it alone. Each time you are open about your condition, you decrease the stigma and ignorance surrounding mental health issues. Little by little, we can change the world.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jenise Harmon, LISW-S, therapist in Columbus, Ohio

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 12 comments
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  • johnna

    johnna

    January 12th, 2016 at 8:40 AM

    and never feel guilty about speaking up for yourself

  • Emily

    Emily

    January 12th, 2016 at 9:45 AM

    johnna: Absolutely! Truth never lies.

  • Dailey

    Dailey

    January 12th, 2016 at 10:17 AM

    I come from a long line of stoics who think that it is terrible to ever admit that you might actually need someone else to help with life in general. They are just the suck it up kind of people who have always told me to be independent, do it on my own. And so I always have a hard time resolving that es it is ok to ask for help every now and then but I never want to tell anyone in my family that I did ask for help. And that totally leaves them out as far as someone I know I can depend on.

  • Emily

    Emily

    January 12th, 2016 at 11:37 AM

    In my family, it is “disrespectful” to speak the truth, to bring up what everyone wants to ignore (in order keep their facade intact). You are expected to just be “grateful.” Growing up and leaving my family was THE BEST thing that ever happened to me, and I realize now that the best, strongest and wisest advocate that I needed was inside me all along. People need to realize that “family” aren’t always the best people to get help from. Believing that it applies to everyone is simply false. There are families with really strong bonds, and there are those without.

  • Susan

    Susan

    January 12th, 2016 at 1:57 PM

    I have to say…moving away from my family of origin was the best thing I could do for my self. They were emotionally abusive to me & rarely spoke to me when we were in rooms together…even during holidays. My family is very dysfunctional. They needed me to be the identified patient so that nobody would look at their behaviors. I live over 1,000 miles from them…I’m still glad that I made the decision to move away from them. I will never go back!

  • Whitney

    Whitney

    January 12th, 2016 at 2:43 PM

    If someone truly loves you without fail then they are going to as k what they can do to help.

    I don’t think that a person like this is ever going to be someone that you have to tell, they will just ask and they will know.

  • Hadassa

    Hadassa

    January 17th, 2016 at 12:47 AM

    While I agree that someone who truly cares will ask how they can help, one of the crucial lessons that I’ve learned over time is to not expect others to mind-read. While a loved one may truly care, they may not aleays be aware of what’s going on, and it’s not fair to them or yourself to wait for them to notice. Also causes resentment in the long run. Innitiating clear, healthy communication is key to any relationship, and I’ve learned that the hard way.

  • Barry

    Barry

    January 13th, 2016 at 10:27 AM

    Sometimes that is all it takes, for you to know all there is to know about your condition so that you can then better express to someone else what it is that you are dealing with.
    I think that a lack of information that you have both for yourself and to share with others can be very harmful in both how you treat yourself and how others see you as well.

  • Carson

    Carson

    January 14th, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Always helps when you feel like you actually deserve the good things that come your way
    and you do

  • Bryan

    Bryan

    January 16th, 2016 at 5:11 AM

    While I agree that it is important to identify someone who you think would be a great deal of support to you, I also think that it is important to not burden one person with too much.

    Yes this might be someone who would want to help you any way that they could, but you can’t put too much on just one person because they too will become burned out and then will not be able to give everything that they need.

    help them reserve some of that for themselves too.

  • Emily

    Emily

    January 18th, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    Unfortunately, the people who need this information most (like abused and neglected children) aren’t reading this. If adults in need can find it difficult to find support, what more with those children.

  • Atenea

    Atenea

    April 29th, 2016 at 6:10 PM

    We are all vulnerable children when our adult struggles are rooted in our Childhood…

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