How many times have you said to a friend or relative in need, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” and when you didn’t hear back, fail to follow-up? I’ve lost count of the number of times I did just that—fail to follow-up when I didn’t hear back from someone in need, even though I would have been happy to assist in any way I could.
Reaching out for help, while it may seem simple, isn’t easy. But why is it so hard to ask? Someone with a broken bone or the flu doesn’t usually hesitate to call their doctor. With mental health, this process is a little more complicated.
First, mental health still has a strong stigma attached to it worldwide, especially between men. People fear they will be labelled “insane” if they see a mental health professional, and worry it could impact their reputation if anyone finds out.
Illnesses that affect our mind also come with the idea that it’s “all in your head” or it’s a simple “attitude adjustment.” As if overcoming depression is as simple as “just” getting out of bed, or panic attacks can be cured by telling someone to “calm down.”
Here are some tips about asking for help:
- Accept that you need help
- Figure out what you need help with
- Find the right help you need – whether it’s in a friend, mental health professionals, colleague or family member. People like to help and you have the right to get help so don’t feel bad for asking.
- Be honest and straightforward
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Mental health professionals are trained to provide support for those struggling with different life challenges.
- Many of us don’t like to ask for help. We may have been taught that it’s a sign of weakness, so we cling to the notion, “I can do everything myself,” even if it’s no longer the case.
I suggest you practice asking. Think of it as an experiment! Nora Klaver published a book on asking for help, here’s how she breaks it down:
The Mayday! Process
- Name the need. Slow down and ask yourself some questions so that you can clarify exactly what you need. Don’t become attached to your first guess for resolving the situation.
- Give yourself a break. You will never be able to freely ask unless you truly believe you deserve it.
- Take a leap. You must have the self-assurance necessary to take a leap of faith toward the assistance you seek.
- Ask! This is the step where you actually make the request. Expand your list of helpmates; generate as many names of potential helpers as you can—even those who may say no.
- Be grateful. Gratitude is an important part of the process. It allows you to remain gracious and open regardless of the answer to your request.
- Listen differently. Listen not just to the words, but to the underlying emotional messages embedded in the response to your request.
- Say thanks. The final step is to say thank-you—whether your helpmate agrees to help you or not. Use the “three thanks” rule by expressing your gratitude three times: when the agreement is struck; when the need has been met, and when you next see your helper.