In the intricacy of human health, mental well-being holds significant weight. Yet, despite its importance, many hesitate to seek help when feeling overwhelmed by mental health concerns. There are several reasons for this hesitation, from stigma and misconception to fear of rejection or even the unknown. However, prioritizing mental health by seeking support is vital in maintaining a healthy life.  


Why is it hard to ask for help? 

Asking for help is an act of bravery. It takes strength to acknowledge personal struggles and to reach out for help. Barriers in asking for help can be found in various areas, like our past experiences, relationships, and cultures. It is crucial to know what specific barriers are present, and to address them effectively.  

Lack of awareness and misconceptions about mental health perpetuate stigma towards those who take steps to gain support. This can cause an increase in isolation, leading to a cycle where lack of support reinforces the difficulties and barriers of reaching out.  

Misunderstandings about what getting help means can also impact the ability to reach out. Some may think getting professional help is always costly, that it will not be effective, or that it will decrease autonomy. The desire to be independent can at times override our ability to fully see the depths of mental health symptoms. This can turn into an inner dialogue of personal failure, which may be difficult to challenge when help is needed. 

Past experiences may have been negative and hurtful when asking for help or previous experiences with getting help or the care itself may have been unsuccessful. This can deter individuals from asking for help in the future. If someone does not receive the support they need, they may be less likely to allow themselves to be vulnerable again. 

Fear of judgement or rejection is a common thread through these barriers. The vulnerability that is needed to ask for help can be intimidating to the point where we can talk ourselves out of it.  

Every individual who steps forward to seek mental health help breaks down the stigma associated with it. Open discussions and acceptance of mental health issues as a normal part of life encourages others to also seek help; which can foster a more understanding and supportive society. 


When do I ask for help?  

While there are barriers in asking for help, mental health is the anchor of emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It influences how we think, feel, and behave in daily life. It also affects our ability to handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Knowing when to ask for help is crucial in keeping ourselves anchored. It is imperative to reach out for help when you start to notice:  

  • Changes in your thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that are negatively impacting your life, relationships, or work/school;  
  • You find yourself relying on unhealthy or unsustainable coping mechanism, like substance use or abuse; 
  • Experiencing feelings of hopelessness, despair, or other emotions that are not typical for you or not in your control; 
  • You are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others 


You don’t have to know what you need  

Sometimes, individuals may not realize they need help or that help is an option. They also may know help is needed, and not know what they need or where to find it. Gaining help is a world of uncertainty and uncertainty can also present as a barrier in getting help. However, sitting with uncertainty encourages resilience and awareness of the present moment. This experience can increase the willingness and mental flexibility to try differently. The journey of accessing help is not linear, allowing yourself grace in the journey is a helpful tool in alleviating the pressure to fix it all at once. By taking the first step toward getting help, any help at all, you are starting on a path toward healing and wellness. The first step does not need to be the perfect or right one as it will lead you to the next one, which can be. 


How to ask for help 

Asking for help can start with four thoughtful steps:  

1. Acknowledge the need – This is the first step in asking for help, name it. Once the difficulty is named, help will be able to tame it.  

2. Identify the right support – Decide who, family, friend, therapist, etc., in your life is best equipped to provide the help you need in that moment – or who can help you figure out what that help looks like or how to find it.

3. Make a plan – Identify an appropriate place and time to have a private conversation. Be mindful of your emotions throughout the conversation. If you notice an increase in feeling overwhelmed, pause the conversation so you can return at a time where you can communicate effectively.

4. Be as clear as possible – It may be difficult to summarize your needs. Start slowly and communicate initial needs clearly to avoid confusion or assumptions. A question we may not be familiar with asking ourselves is, what is my support language? While love languages have been discussed for years, support languages are new to some. Support languages allow us to name what will help in that moment. Again, while we may not know what we need, starting to reflect on how you have felt supported in the past will guide you to some answers of what could be effect in the present.  

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Tips for Taking the First Step Towards Care  

In our daily lives, we can help ourselves without even knowing it. Self-care has become a buzz word, and has come to be generally defined as treating ourselves or turning to pampering ourselves and material items to increase positive emotions.  It can be helpful to think about two alternatives to self-care: self-nurturing and community care. Self-nurturing can ensure we are engaging in our personal and professional lives in ways that are aligned with our values. By engaging in hobbies, activities, and daily tasks that keep momentum moving forward, our energy and well-being can maintain a balance. Community care, versus self-care, takes the burden of care off of ourselves when we may not be able to care for ourselves, and places it on the community to care for those in need of support. This may look like anything from talking to a friend, to going somewhere that feels nurturing or enjoyable, to seeking professional help. 

Many mental health diagnoses, if left unaddressed, can worsen over time. Early intervention through professional help can prevent symptoms from escalating and can lead to more effective management of the diagnosis. At Compass Health Center, we support individual journeys of awareness and healing in PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program), IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), Echo Program, and Outpatient Psychiatry levels of care. With the support of a treatment team, individuals are provided individual therapy, family therapy, medication management, and a variety of other specialized forms of support, while attending a group-based program.

Our approach to providing care comes from a foundation of non-judgment. The role of mental health professionals is to assist in gaining awareness, developing tools, and increase communication. Individuals learn about their triggers, thought patterns, and coping mechanisms, which is a journey of personal growth that can lead to life-changing insights and self-improvement.  

Asking for help is not merely a sign of courage; it is part of the foundation of growth and well-being. It is an investment that can bring positive changes, impacting every aspect of life. If you or someone you know is struggling, remember that help is available and that taking that first step, though daunting, is an act of courage that can lead to transformative outcomes. 

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Further Reading: 

Which Mental Health Diagnoses are Treated at the PHP/IOP Levels of Care at Compass? 

How Do I Know Which Type of Mental Health Treatment is Right for Me? | A Clinician’s Guide to Understanding Levels of Care 

 Three Ways to Identify Emotions to Help Navigate Your Feelings | A Clinician's Guide for Improved Mental Health 

Carolyn Weisman

Director of Adolescent Program