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Reaching Out for Support
Making the first step in getting help can feel overwhelming, especially when waitlists are involved, but you are not alone. These tips are about reaching out for help; whether that’s by navigating the mental health system, finding support from friends and loved ones, or other ways we can support ourselves.
Today we want to acknowledge the strength it takes to reach out for help. Navigating the mental health system is not an easy thing to do. Your resilience is remarkable.
May 2nd - May 8th is #MentalHealthWeek. Follow along on Twitter with @CMHA_NTL as they encourage us to #GetReal about how to help. They will be sharing some amazing mental health content and seminars focusing on empathy and how to support your loved ones.
Our mental health is like our physical health. Just like how we'd go to a doctor if we got hurt physically, we can reach out to different supports to help us feel better when it comes to our mental health, too.
When someone reaches out to you about struggling with their mental health, our first instinct might be to make them feel better. But sometimes all they might need is to feel heard. If you're not sure, ask them if they're looking for advice or just wanting to vent.
Practice taking time to write down how you're feeling and what happened throughout your day. Doing so gives you a record to look back at to help identify why you might not be feeling your best. Try using the mood. app by mindyourmind.
Reaching out and navigating the mental health system also means showing resiliency. Recognizing your stressors, skills and strengths can help you while navigating the system. Our Piecing it Together resource can help you do just that!
It's okay to not know where to start when first reaching out for support. Our Help section is a great resource. You can find answers and guidance on many different topics.
Language barriers can often be the reason someone might not reach out for additional support. Not being able to find a professional that speaks and understands an individual's culture and language can be exhausting. It's important to recognize this gap in services.
Sometimes when we reach out, the other person might react differently from what we were expecting or hoping. It's important not to take their reaction personally, as it's more about them than it is about you! If you can, let them know how it made you feel.
This is a reminder that you are not a burden. It's okay to ask for help from friends or loved ones. People care about you and they want to know how to best support you. You are not asking for too much.
Calling a crisis or support line can feel intimidating or anxiety-provoking. Before you call, write down what you've been experiencing and then take a few deep breaths. Remember, the people on the other end of the line are there to help.
It might feel awkward telling a friend or loved one how you've REALLY been doing. If telling them face-to-face feels too much, send them a text instead and let them know what's up!
Are you someone who forgets what you talked about in therapy? Bring a journal and take notes! When in doubt, ask your therapist if they could send you a follow-up email with key points from your sessions.
Before venting to a friend or family member, it's helpful to ask if they're able to listen. Sometimes our support people are going through a lot themselves and require support too. Respect their boundaries if they are unable to help and turn to someone else.
Does your mental health medication need adjusting? Reach out to your psychiatrist or family doctor. Remember, there is no shame in needing to increase your dose or try something else. Consistent communication with your helping professionals is important.
Make sure to take time for yourself after an appointment. Talking about your struggles, working on your mental health, AND navigating the system can be incredibly draining. Your mind and body deserve to rest.
Before we reach out to someone, it can be helpful to think about what we're looking for from them, e.g. a compassionate listener, advice, a hug, help with chores, etc., and then let the person know. This way they have a better chance at helping you!
When you open up to someone about your mental health (or another personal topic), it's possible that the other person may have questions. You don't have to answer all of them! Try saying: "I appreciate your interest, but I don't feel up to talking about that aspect".
The saying that "a problem shared is a problem halved," is not wrong! Oftentimes, when we reach out to someone there may not be an immediate solution, and yet simply opening up can help a great deal.
Reaching out for help to discover that there's a 6-month waitlist can be disheartening. Think about the small things you could do each day to support your mental health, check out An Abundance of Safety Plans and stay safe until your appointment.
Reaching out can take a lot of courage, so when we're met with painfully long waitlists, it can feel pretty daunting. If you're struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, read this 7 Virtual Resources for EDs and Disordered Eating for free virtual resources you may benefit from!
If your mind is holding you back from reaching out, take in this quote by researcher @BreneBrown: “Connection is why we're here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
Try to prepare yourself for the possibility that reaching out may not go how you hoped. That doesn't mean it was for nothing, it was practice for you to try again until the right person hears you! Don't give up until you find someone supportive.
Not everything that weighs you down is yours to carry alone, it is human and it is brave to reach out for help.
If you feel your problems are still unresolved after seeking help, keep trying. Oftentimes the person you are reaching out to might not be able to fix your problems, but they can connect you with someone else who might!
You deserve help and support - don't forget that! Try to think of yourself as a child, would you tell them that they didn't deserve help? You are still that same person who is just as deserving of help and support now.
The timing of when you reach out may not be ideal for the other person, but it doesn't mean they don't care about you. Just as others may not realize everything that’s going on with you, remember that you also might not know what may be going on with them.
Sometimes, we may find ourselves in a crisis and need help that is beyond our usual supports. In these cases, it might be time to visit the hospital ER. This isn't an easy choice or process, but it is worth it if it keeps you safe. See if a loved one can accompany you.
If you're thinking of reaching out for urgent help, through a crisis centre or your local emergency room (ER), check out I'm in Crisis for some helpful info, including what to expect.
When you're able to, try to get back in touch with the person you reached out to for support. Let them know how much the conversation meant to you, it will feel good for you to express this gratitude and it will be nice for them to get the recognition too!
You don’t need special training to have an open, authentic conversation about mental health. Often, just talking about it can be the first important step in understanding where someone is at with their mental health, and helping them get support or treatment if needed.