How can you get help with teen mental health? And what pitfalls do you need to look out for?
Being a teenager is hard enough. If you also suffer from anxiety, depression, childhood trauma, or other mental health issues, it can feel overwhelming. But there IS help.
How to Find Support With Teen Mental Health
1. Friends (but it depends).
Having a friend to talk to is great. But let’s be honest, sometimes school politics mean we can have ‘best friends‘ we feel we must hang out with who are also, unfortunately, our best enemies.
Mental health issues make us more vulnerable than usual so it’s really important to choose who we share with carefully. Seeking support when you are down is all about not causing yourself more stress and drama.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself before sharing with someone:
- How exactly has this other person been trustworthy in the past?
- Do they tell you what other people told them? And then promise that your secrets will be different? (doubtful, watch out)
- Are they a good listener, or do they always interrupt?
- How does your body feel when you talk to this person, do you feel tense in your stomach, or relaxed? (If you feel tense, trust that instinct)
- Do they trust you with their secrets and troubles? (trustworthy people tend to trust others in return).
Don’t overlook people if they are not part of your usual social circle. If you feel relaxed and good around someone, pay attention. That nice girl in English class you talk to on break, or that quiet but kind guy you work with, might be better to share with than your gossipy ‘friend’.
2. Free mental health help lines.
There are so many unhelpful myths about mental help lines. They are not just for people who are considering suicide (although if you are, please do call one, there are helplines set up just for feeling suicidal).
If you are a teen in the UK here are some great FREE places to chat and text with counsellors and trained listeners:
The Mix – The Mix is a really well established charity for people 25 and under. It has a helpline, a chat function, message boards, even group online chats. They also have useful apps you can download.
Kooth – a newer online service and app where you can chat to counsellors and psychotherapists any day, any time.
Childline – Childline UK now offers teens aged 19 and under free chat, message boards, and phone conversations.
And for other ones, read our article on “Mental Health Help Lines in the UK“.
Mental health help lines won’t appear on your phone bill, if you are worried about parents seeing (you can check this on the helpline’s website). And the people you get to talk to are trained listeners, often volunteers, who actually want to talk to you.
The school counsellor.
Don’t say ‘no way’ just yet. A school counsellor is trained to talk to teens. They know the sorts of things you are going through.
A school counsellor will usually have a confidentiality agreement with you. That means that they won’t share what you tell them unless it’s about breaking a law or they think you’ll put yourself or others in danger.
Ask the counsellor at school what the confidentiality agreement is and ask to see it on paper. You can even ask for a signed agreement if you feel better.
If you are a minor, then be careful telling your parents or guardian you are talking to the school counsellor if you think they won’t like it. They can’t get you in trouble for seeing one without telling them but they do have the legal right to stop you seeing the counsellor further.
If you feel too uncomfortable to even walk into the school counsellor’s office in case someone sees you and you get bullied or teased, we get it. Schools can be tough places. Consider the other options here. Don’t give up.
Family (yes, seriously, and read why).
Yes, it absolutely can feel like your entire family can’t stand you. But take a deep breath and ask yourself, is that really true? Do they drive you to school, buy you presents on your birthday, take you to the doctor? Then they actually care.
If your issues come from your family, if you are being emotionally abused or verbally abused, if someone in your family has abused you in the past and you don’t think anyone will believe you, then absolutely DO NOT turn to your family if it will put you in danger or cause more abuse. Try our other advice and please do find support. Abuse is serious.
But if there is someone, anyone, in your family or extended family who cares about you, then please give them a chance. Adults and teens are living in different worlds but usually, beneath the confusion, adults care more than you think.
You don’t need to tell them everything. You just need to ask them to help you get professional help.
It’s often all about the way you approach asking for help with your mental health. We highly recommend you read our article “How to Discuss Mental Health With Your Parents” which offers good tips that can be used with any close family member.
Online forums (warning, be careful!).
By: Kevin R. Colvin
On one hand, online forums can be a fantastic support. We can meet people who have the same issues as us when we’ve spent ages feeling alone an misunderstood.
On the other hand, forums can create a powerful and dangerous group energy and are breeding grounds for predators. Watch out for forums where people are encouraging you to talk to them but cut out people you know in real life, or suggesting you hurt yourself. And be careful for bullies or manipulators who tell you they know best. Be very wary of sending photos or personal details to anyone.
You are a worthwhile human with something to offer the world. It might not feel it now, but there is nobody amongst us without the power to help others at some point in life.
Do not let some cyber stranger hiding behind a screen somewhere bully you, or let you lose touch with your true value that you WILL find again when you are through this rough patch.
Self help and research.
Get out there and learn all you can. There are great free resources for mental health these days (including here on our website!). Nobody needs to know you are watching or reading – you can hide the books, delete your history on youtube, and clear your browsing history.
Look for stories of people who have come out the other side, who are now adults, and learn the tools they used to manage.
But be wary of false information. There are a lot of terrible articles and incorrect theories on the internet and a lot of victims angry at the world who want you to feel as bad as they do. Start with the free guides put out by online charities and mental health organisations (their sites will be advertisement free and they will have an ‘about’ page explaining they are a charity or outreach). Go for articles that feel supportive and positive. Some ideas to start you off (beyond our really useful site with articles on just about anything!) are here:
Help Guide Mental Health Organisation
Low cost or free counselling.
Are you legally old enough to book a counsellor? Before you think there is no way you could afford therapy ever, look at low cost options in your area.
Some communities have totally free counselling for young people (if you are in the UK, call your local chapter of Mind charity and ask if they know about any).
If not, google your postcode and ‘low cost counselling‘. Sometimes, for example, psychotherapy schools have final year students looking for clients. They’ll be supervised themselves by really experienced therapists, so it’s still a good service and often for a fee that is the cost of a few lattes.
Be really honest with yourself if you can or can’t afford help for your mental health. If you do get an allowance, or work part-time, think about what you are doing with your money. Do you blow it all on weekends out, alcohol, or new clothes? Seeing a counsellor is an investment with lifelong returns and one can that save your life. If you are really depressed, doesn’t how you feel matter more than a new outfit?
Our new sister site harleytherapy.com now offers counselling for every budget, including Skype and phone counselling. Get help wherever you are in the world.
Have a question about teen mental health help, or want to share your experience about how you got the help you needed? Use our public comment box below. Comments are moderated.
[contact-form-7 id="117624" title="Journalist Form"]