Why is asking for help so hard?

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What is your first instinct when your friend is not doing well? Is it to take some time to listen to them, or do something to help them get their mind off things? In more serious situations do you suggest that they should talk to an adult who might be able help them? Undoubtedly you would feel better if they chose to talk to you instead of trying to deal with it alone, right?  Isn’t it weird that we know what to do for others but often find it difficult to apply this same approach to ourselves. Most of us usually try to solve our problems on our own before we reach out to anyone. So, what makes it so difficult to ask for help, or to even just talk to someone about what’s going on?

Things that make it difficult to ask for help

You feel like you're bothering someone

You should never feel like you might be taking the place of someone who needs help more than you. If you're at the point where you want to talk to someone, it's a sign that your problem is ‘big enough’ and that you have more than a good enough reason to do so; so, first of all, listen to yourself. It’s brave to ask for help before a problem becomes too overwhelming. If you think about it, it is actually a very logical approach to problem solving. You can start by saying what you find difficult about sharing what you’re going through, and there will be people who will be there for you, whether you think the problem is big or small. 


It's frowned upon in your circle

Maybe your friends or parents tell you that it's "just in your head", or that you're complaining about nothing, or that others have it much worse than you. Maybe you feel like you're going to disappoint them and that they'll think you're weak if you need to talk to someone. People close to you may have misconceptions about mental health or the difficulties you may be going through, and can say hurtful things. If your friends or family ridicule or minimize how you’re feeling, you may begin to question if they are the best people to talk to. Maybe they don't know how to help you or don't see things the way that you do. But these are not reasons that should stop you from asking for help when you need it. Turn to neutral people who won't judge you, who will believe you, and who care about your point of view, such as Tel-jeunes or the counsellors at your school. These are resources that you can contact independently, without needing to ask for your parents' approval. 


You're afraid that everyone will know

Sometimes you can be afraid that someone will tell others your secrets, or even that they will laugh at you when you tell them, and this can make you not want to share what you’re going through with anyone. But remember, other than in exceptional circumstances, the professionals helping you are bound by confidentiality. You can even erase your online search history online, including on Tel-jeunes’ website. 


Feeling that you need to educate the person who is supposed to help you

Feeling that the professionals around you don't have the expertise to fully understand what you’re going through (for example, the challenges you face as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or the microaggressions you experience if you belong to a racial minority group) is frustrating and exhausting. It can feel like a burden to explain the details of what an everyday situation is like for you, and it’s not one that you should have to carry. Even if this person is well-intentioned, don't hesitate to let them know that you’re not getting the necessary help, and ask to be referred to someone who is better equipped to help you. Violent or discriminatory comments against you or your community are always unacceptable. In these kinds of situations, you have the right to file a complaint. Contact Tel-jeunes if you need to discuss this further. 


4 questions to help you open up more easily

  • To whom? Identify someone you trust. It could be a role model (your coach, your favourite teacher, an adult in your life), your closest friend, a group of people with whom you feel you can really be yourself around, or even a neutral person who doesn’t know much about you. 
  • Where? Choose a place where you can talk freely, a place where you don’t have to worry about your parents overhearing you or your friends seeing you (if these are concerns). Your local youth centre, school counsellor’s offices, or an online resource like Tel-jeunes can all be good places. 
  • How? Think of a way that makes communicating easiest for you, like writing a letter and reading it out loud to the person you want to confide in, exchanging texts rather than speaking face to face, contacting an anonymous resource so that they don’t know who you are, etc. It might also help to read or listen to the stories of other young people who are going through similar challenges as you. 
  • How do you get started? If you are having trouble finding the words to begin, a simple first step might be to say, "this is hard for me, but I need to talk to you about something”. You can also name your fears: "I'm afraid of being judged for saying this, but I need someone to help me". Naming how you feel before you get to the heart of the matter sets the stage for the other person to be more empathetic and aware of the courage it is taking for you to talk to them. 


Do guys ask for help too?

Yes! Every year thousands of boys contact Tel-jeunes. They talk about sexuality, anxiety, heartbreak, conflicts with their parents, or other subjects that they have on their mind. 


Men and boys don’t ask for help as often, but it’s not because they need it less. Rather, it is because they have been taught that being masculine is being strong and being able to deal with problems alone, without getting overwhelmed by emotions. This view of masculinity is toxic; it’s harmful to boys who may be afraid of ridicule or feel inadequate if they talk about what they are experiencing and feeling. But the fact is, men need to talk about their problems, too. 


Are there ways to talk to other young people who would really understand me?

Absolutely! It's easier for many people to open up to someone they can relate to. Getting involved with school committees or in extracurricular activities can help you meet people with similar backgrounds and interests, and make you feel more understood. There are also anonymous forums such as the Forum - Espace TJ, where you can get advice from other young people on any topic that may be on your mind, and get some very concrete tips from those who have managed to overcome situations like yours. Finally, there's our Experienced Youth chat where you can talk freely, just like with a friend, to a young person who has recently entered adulthood. 


Do my parents have to know that I am asking for help?

No, you can use the services offered by Tel-jeunes, another organization, a youth centre, or your school without your parents knowing. However, if you wish to consult a professional for a longer period of time and you are under 14 years old, your parents must give their consent. Learn more here. 


Some relevant resources 

My Mental Health Matters 

For youth that come from different cultural backgrounds, who want to learn more about mental health and find a professional in the greater Montreal area who also belongs to an ethnic minority group. 


The Interligne Registry 

To find safe places and resources for LGBTQ+ people in all of Quebec’s regions.

Philippe Talks About Masculinity [French only]