This blog is directed at young people (or folks of any age) who are struggling in silence with difficult thoughts, emotions and feelings, or mental health symptoms such as self-harm, disordered eating, anxiety and/or depression who feel unable for any reason to open up to others.
For the readers not in some form of emotional distress but concerned for others they feel might be or are known to be, this will be helpful for you too. Something to help hold in mind how important that moment is when someone trust’s in you with their most personal thoughts and feelings, and how your response can be hugely impactful to them (and you).
Why you should talk to your parents or a trusted adult
Just the idea of talking about intimate and sensitive issues can feel anxiety provoking without considering who to actually start a conversation with. Telling a parent or trusted adult is highly important for many reasons.
A trusted adult could be a professional, such as your GP, a teacher, carer or a worker
with public services or charity.
The act of voicing your troubles alone can help to lessen the emotional burden you are experiencing and can help you to start processing the problem in a healthy manor. By sharing the difficulties and upsetting emotions you are experiencing through talking with a trusted adult or parent, the psychological weight will lift (even if only slightly) as you will feel less or no longer isolated or alone in the situation.
Once you have spoken about your problems, you may find relief in unthought solutions presented by adults with alternate life experiences and from other outside perspectives. This can hopefully present to you an objective way to look at the issues you are facing and even if they cannot help in figuring out a solution to your problems, trusted adults may be able to help support you in accessing
the help you need.
It is worth remembering that parents, carers and the adults closest to you or other trusted adults and professionals will care about your welfare; if you are struggling with something they will want to know about it, even if only to just provide emotional support. Someone will care.
If you are not in a place where you want to or feel you can fix the problems you are facing it is still worth vocalising your current thoughts and feelings so that there is another person who knows what’s going on and can look out for you if your symptoms worsen.
The difficulties surrounding ‘speaking up’:
Even though it is highly important to speak to an adult about difficult topics such as low mood, self harm and intrusive thoughts, doing so can be extremely challenging and it’s understanding you may have a number of worries surrounding this.
People may feel scared or anxious about the possibility of upsetting your loved ones, or concerned that they will react negatively to your honesty. Some people fear they may not be taken seriously or believed once they decide to speak up about the problems they are facing.
These are very often the presumed beliefs and the worries, ‘repercussions’, of responses so often thought of. These are some of the common obstacles to overcome by someone who is already coping with any form and level of emotional distress, and facing this obstacle may cause more distress and overwhelm at first. But sometimes we will feel a little bit worse (often only for a short time), before we get better.
Verbalising the problems you are facing, for some, is another obstacle to overcome. Finally putting the distress into words or taking the first step in admitting there is a problem can be a daunting task to tackle. You may not be able to find the right words or know how to speak truthfully about what you are going through.
You may not even want to talk about your problems, for some, holding the pain or keeping any other feelings to yourself is partly or wholly about wanting to keep your privacy, or believe this to be the norm or expected of you.
You may not feel ready to seek help but you could still want it, or not wish to stop the harm caused by the problems you are facing; by speaking about issues like self-harm for example, the people around you may subsequently stop or prevent you from continuing with the behaviour, a scenario that you may not feel ready for yet. (Self-harm isn’t just the causing physical harm with objects, this can be drinking, substances or a variety of other risk-taking behaviours or actions).
Ways to tackle this
Despite the barriers that seem almost impossible to overcome, there are ways in which you can open up about your issues with trusted adults. Many people have described ‘ripping off the bandage’ is the hardest thing to do in this situation but immediately after this is done, things get progressively easier.
Often initial reactions can be surprisingly supportive and caring when we open up to someone, and sometimes that’s not always the experience, which is what people worry about.
Before speaking to a trusted adult or parent/carer, remind yourself that their reaction does not define your worth or the level of distress you feel you are in or how legitimate it is to you.
Not everyone is a qualified doctor, counsellor, or social worker and some may only have limited knowledge and experience on the issues you are facing so may not always respond how we hope or generally meet our expectations at first, but in time that can change.
How an adult reacts is not your responsibility, and so you should not feel guilty or take on their feelings. No one is perfect and there is no manual on how to deal with this type of situation or way to predict initial responses. Imagining how the scene may pan out could also prevent you from speaking out, it may be best to just recognise the worry and vocalise this as a way to start the conversation.
“I am concerned about your reaction, but I have to tell you something”. This may feel
less daunting than just ‘coming out with it’.
Make sure to look after and protect your mental health and well-being during difficult events such as this. whilst it’s often best not to role play scenarios ahead of starting a conversation too much, having a ‘game plan’ post conversation can be another helpful idea. This may look like activities that help calm and ground you, self-care is important during times like this. Surrounding yourself with activities that make you feel good and bring you a sense of worth or going for a run, to the gym, meet a friend, have a bath, watch tv in your room or just placing yourself in a positive and, or calming environment.
If you find speech a difficult format to communicate in, try writing out your problems in a letter or text message instead, you could even try drawing or putting your feelings into song or poem, or using one you relate with if that makes it easier for you to express yourself.
If you don’t feel ready to talk about absolutely everything, try breaking it down into smaller chunks and start there. You can start translating things into an artistic medium instead if that is helpful for you.
Whether its talking to your parents about distressing thoughts or telling a trusted adult that you feel depressed, you deserve to push through the difficulties that come with this territory in order to access the help you need. Things might seem scary right now but one day you will look back on the decision to speak up and thank yourself. Remember, you are not alone in this.
When the support and advice we hope for doesn’t come immediately from the person we first approach, people may need to try again with another adult which is frustrating or even more difficult to do. Just remember, someone will care for you.
Created by Holly Hawken, Edited by Teenage Mental Health.
Below are recommendations for ways to open up with services with responsible and trusted adults.
If you are feeling suicidal, please contact either emergency services immediately, or ask a trusted adult to do this for you. You can also:
- Go to A&E
- Contact your GP
- Speak with a school/educational based nurse
And consider some options below for Mental Health Support as guided by Suffolk Local Public Health: Some options are specific to Suffolk only.