How To Ask Your Parents For Help With Mental Illness
When I started to develop an anxiety disorder, I didn’t want to admit it. Even though I was always the first one to tell my friends to seek professional help, I didn’t want to do that myself. I felt ridiculous about the fact that I could not “control” my own mind. To make it worse, my parents kept on telling me to “just snap out of it” and “stop overreacting”.
But asking for help is the first step to recovery. So it’s important that we overcome our fear and embarrassment and go for it. I promise it gets a lot easier after you finally do it.
Most teenagers are financially dependent on their parents. And even if you aren’t, you’re probably going to need their help to get access to medication and therapy, due to legal restrictions. So your parents are the first people you need to reach out to.
But as every teenager on this planet knows, sometimes parents can be the worst. Yeah. Bless their stubbornness. Here’s how to deal with that.
Understand their point of view
I know it’s hard to put ourselves in our parents’ shoes when we’re teenagers. But if you want to get them to understand you, you need to understand them first. It’s a matter of logic.
Unfortunately, many parents refuse to accept it when a teen expresses concerns about the possibility of having a mental illness. That’s the curse of being a teenager: everything you say is discarded as being “part of puberty”. You feel sad? Teen angst. You’re anxious? Hormones. Can’t sleep? It’s all because you spend all day on that bloody phone of yours!
But there’s more to parent denial than just their hate for technology and them thinking you’re too young to have any real problems. There are many reasons why people will not believe you at first when you say you have a mental illness. But I can think of 3 that are especially important when we’re talking about parents:
1. They don’t want to believe it because they don’t want to see you struggling. Depression and anxiety are awful. They can have a very hard impact on your life. Everyone knows that. And no one wants to see their beloved child going through those hardships. So they deny it. If they don’t believe it, it can’t be real. Like the monster under the bed.
2. They don’t want to believe it because it would make them feel guilty. You’re their child. They feel responsible for you. So they don’t want to think that they have “let” you get mentally ill. They don’t want to believe they’ve missed all the signs and failed to prevent it. In worst scenarios, they may be afraid that they “made” you get sick. As if them being overprotective could have caused your anxiety or something.
3. They don’t want to believe it because they don’t “believe” in mental illness at all. They think things such as depression or anxiety are things people your age make up for attention. Or that’s it’s all an excuse for being lazy. They do not have enough information about it, so they don’t believe mental illnesses are real.
Education is key
If that sounds too much like your parents, do not panic. Keep calm. Take a deep breath. There’s a good solution that can tackle all those issues at once: education.
See, all three reasons that I mentioned above display some sort of misconception about mental illnesses. And there’s nothing better than some information to kill misconceptions. Look:
1. You can show them that having a mental illness is not the end of the world. It can be tough sometimes, for sure. But most mental illnesses are either curable or treatable and you will get better. With your parents’ help and with the assistance of a doctor and/or a therapist, you have no reason to keep on suffering.
2. You can explain to them that scientists cannot yet pinpoint a single cause for mental illnesses. In many cases, it is impossible to know what led a person to develop anxiety or depression. And no one can “make” someone get mentally ill. You can then reassure your parents that you do not blame them for it. You’re not looking for culprits; you’re seeking help. With patience and a few good resources, you can calm your parents’ guilt feelings and help them help you.
3. If they are in this state, they definitely need to learn more. By educating them, you can help them deconstruct the stigma and all the stereotypes they have heard about mental illnesses throughout their life. You can prove them that no one is “too young” to get depressed or anxious and that people your age can struggle with their mental health, too. You can explain that you’re not looking for attention by showing them reports on how difficult it is for people to reach out for help. Slowly but surely, you may manage to convince them to listen to your concerns and take them seriously.
How to start the conversation
First things first. Before you can even think about educating your parents, educate yourself. If you’re hoping to teach anything to another person, first you need to make sure you yourself understand your subject. Don’t be like your teacher who seems to be clueless about his own class.
Look around the internet and read everything you can about the mental illness you believe you may have. Go to YouTube and watch videos of people talking about how it feels like to have that illness to gain some perspective. If you think that will help, make a list of questions your parents may have about it.
When you feel you’re ready, take a deep breath, then tell your parents you want to talk to them.