How Do I Tell My Parents I Need Mental Health Help?


It’s hard, but it’ll be worth it.

Welcome to BuzzFeed's Mental Health Q&A, where we consult with experts to answer your biggest mental health questions. Have a question about mental or emotional health, happiness, relationships, stress, or anything else? Hit us up at MentalHealthQs@buzzfeed.com.

This week’s question: How do I talk to my parents about tricky mental health stuff?

This week's question: How do I talk to my parents about tricky mental health stuff?

Q: What do you do if you've tried and tried to talk to your parents about your depression and anxiety, but every time you get too nervous and end up saying everything is fine? I just get paralyzed with anxiety and I can't seem to say anything. It's been happening for about two years now and I just don't know what to do anymore. I know I need help but I'm too scared to ask.

—Anonymous

Hey Anonymous! Thanks so much for asking. First all, you should know that you're not alone. We received dozens of questions from people dealing with pretty much the same thing and for good reason — talking to your parents about this sort of thing is really hard.

To help answer your question, we talked to clinical psychologist and adolescent specialist Jerry Weichman, Ph.D., and clinical psychologist Jamie Howard, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center's Trauma and Resilience Service at the Child Mind Institute.

Here are their tips.

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First, remember: You don’t need your parents to understand exactly what you’re going through. You just need them to know you’re struggling so you can get the help you need.

First, remember: You don't need your parents to understand exactly what you're going through. You just need them to know you're struggling so you can get the help you need.

A part of your anxiety might be coming from not being able to express yourself in a way that makes it clear how you're feeling — but you don't really have to do that. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues aren't always easily described, especially to people who don't have personal experience with it. What's important is that your parents know that you're not well and need to see a professional, even if they don't grasp the nitty gritty of it, says Howard.

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You can help reduce the anxiety of the conversation by planning out what you’re going to say.

You can help reduce the anxiety of the conversation by planning out what you're going to say.

Howard suggests writing out a script if you're feeling overwhelmed. But if you're worried it's going to be a high-pressure situation, don't try to memorize a whole speech — a few bullet points are fine.

When coming up with talking points, focus on how your symptoms have been impacting your life. It's normal for everyone to feel sad or anxious from time to time, so you want to make sure it's very clear to your parents what you're going through. “Tell them that you're feeling so anxious that you're avoiding things that really matter to you,” says Howard. “Or that you're feeling so depressed that you're not spending time with your friends, or turning in your homework on time, or enjoying life.”

You can even come with reading material for them if you think it would help. Something as simple as printing out an overview and a list of symptoms that highlight what you've been experiencing can make it a more tangible thing for your parents to grasp, says Weichman. The National Institute of Mental Health or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America are great resources for this stuff.

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