At age 13 Aly started having trouble with anxiety and depression, and self-injury. She confided with a teacher unsure of what to do about it. Here is more about her first time asking for help.
Alysha: Who did you ask for help - a friend/ parent/ teacher? How did you ask- through email, letter, speaking with person…?
Aly: I asked a teacher for help by speaking to her when we were alone.
Alysha: What made you ask for help? How did you start receiving help? Did a teacher/ friend notice something was wrong?
Aly: In grade 9 I had a teacher that said to my science class that she was always there if we needed anything and to come for her if we ever needed help. In the middle of that semester I was having a lot of trouble with depression, cutting and past abuse issues. I was really lost and didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. One day when I was upset I went to visit her at lunch, and I started crying. She took me to an empty classroom and we talked and I told her about how I was feeling depressed and really confused about past abuse. She was really understanding, and calmed me down.
Alysha: How did she react to you asking for help?
Aly: She was a good listener and really supportive. She was surprised that I was having this trouble because I hid it well from everyone.
Alysha: What did she say/do? Did she help you in any way?
Aly: She gave me a few help line numbers to call, and referred me to guidance people. The guidance people just talked to me and then had me join a group for younger students with problems at home and in general. Later that year the teacher called my mom a few times because of her concerns about me. Talking to the teacher was the most helpful because she was caring and understanding. I hated the group at school because I couldn’t relate to the girls in it. They all did poorly in school, had drug problems or had relationship issues; all those didn’t apply to me. Calling my home was hell for me because my mom was in denial… and still was until 5 years later. She didn’t understand at all. She just told me I was like everyone else and that it was normal for teens to be stressed.
Alysha: What type of help did you receive –guidance appointment, counseling, someone that would listen, trip to emerge, phone number of service?
Aly: The first help I received was the phone numbers, then going to guidance and being a part of a group at school. Later that year I was sent to counseling, and then to emerge a few times, but was never admitted. Then I got meds from my doctor.
Alysha: Did your friends/ parents/ school find out about you seeking help? Did you want them to find out?
Aly: My friends didn’t know except for one that was in the group with me. A year after asking for help for the first time some friends found out because they noticed cuts on me. My teachers all knew I was in the group because I missed a class once a month, they didn’t know why I was in it though. My parents found out because the teacher called them a few times that year.
Alysha: How did they react?
Aly: My mom was in denial. She was hurt. She tried to get me to go to counseling, and to take vitamins and get enough sleep to make me balanced. The teachers I talked to were awesome; they were supportive and had helpful suggestions of how to deal with stress and other issues. Friends didn’t really say much. Sometimes they would be concerned and go to teachers and guidance and tell them about how I was acting or the cuts on me. Doctor just fed me different meds didn’t really ask much. Counseling was alright, it was someone to talk to but I didn’t feel it helped; I would rather just talk to the teacher because I knew better. At counseling I just drew pictures and she would comment on how my ugly drawings were so nice. She would ask questions and write in her book and sometimes offer suggestions on how to deal with stress.
Alysha: What was the hardest part about asking for help?
Aly: My mom finding out was the hardest. I didn’t want to hurt her or have her blame herself for everything that had happened to me in past, or that I had done to myself. Though I didn’t want that to happen that is pretty much what did. She was having a hard time too as we were both dealing with moving out of an abusive home that we lived in a year earlier.
Alysha: How did asking for help benefit you?
Aly: I wasn’t so alone. I got less nervous of asking for help when I needed to it and always went to an adult when I was going to have an anxiety attack so they would sit with me. I knew some people cared.
Alysha: If you went to Doctor, psychiatrist, counselor etc, what did you like about it, and what did you dislike?
Aly: I liked that they were trying to help. I liked talking to them sometimes and telling them what was on my mind. I disliked how there was nothing to do but sit in a small room for an hour, and how I was always on waiting lists. It took too long to get counseling, by the time I went I was sick of talking to random doctors. I disliked how the system was unorganized and inefficient school, doctor and counselor sent me to different shrinks so I had to go through life story a million times and I’d have to repeat the same thing over and over again. They would just put me on meds after hearing life story not even listen to what current problem was.
Alysha: What was the best part of getting help? Relief, felt less alone, learned different coping tools etc….
Aly: I felt less alone. I learned different coping tools (sometimes from other youth would learn how to hide things from adults so not always good skills)
Alysha: Do you have any advice for someone thinking of asking for help themselves?
Aly: Don’t be afraid to ask for help it’s worth it even if it takes forever to find balance of meds and a counselor you like.
Alysha: What should you say to a friend if they think they need help?
Aly: I would talk to them about what I noticed, and how I had dealt with things. I would say don’t be embarrassed it’s okay to ask for help. If they were shy I would give them ideas of who to talk to or Internet addresses they could check out for services.
Alysha: What did you like about counseling, and how could a counselor/ therapist make the process easier? What would you tell a counselor to do differently?
Aly: I liked how I could talk to someone. I hated not knowing anything about them, and having to tell them my life story. It’s like being with a stranger that doesn’t speak your language expecting them to understand you. I hate sitting and having them make notes about me, it’s very nerve-racking it makes me feel like they have to write it down because they won’t remember me in five minutes after I’ve gone and that they don’t care. It’d be better for them to record it with a tape recorder or make notes at the end of session. I would like for them to do an activity with me other than asking questions. It could be any activity, just give me an assignment or play a game or do some art with me and ask me questions when we are doing that. That way I will get to know them better, be engaged in something else and more likely to not lie to you about everything because you are working with me on something, not just evaluating me.