Don’t struggle in silence. Take your power back
“Please help me.”
When was the last time you said these three words? All of us need some support during our lives here. Help is sometimes practical – like moving furniture or carrying grocery-bags. At other times, all you want is a hug, or some emotional support.
Although it’s normal to need and ask for support, many of us can find it hard to do so: especially when it comes to our mental health.
Reasons we resist asking for support
We want to be independent
From childhood, we are gradually taught to ‘stand on our own two feet’. With every next milestone we feel a bit more empowered, and so a little less dependent on others. It’s easy to think: “If I ask for help, I am going backwards in life.” In reality though, we always need others. If you practice asking for small favours it will be easier to ask for bigger ones in future.
It can be hard to give up control
When asking for support, we make ourselves vulnerable. We may fear that others won’t understand, or that they will judge us and so make us feel even worse. Actually, asking for what you need is a way to take back control. It takes courage to truly recognise what you need, and to ask for it.
What if they reject me?
Another common reason we don’t ask for support, is that we fear rejection. Although it’s entirely possible for someone to say ‘no’ to your request, it is also possible for them to say ‘yes’. In fact, studies show that we underestimate other’s willingness to help by up to 50%!
How to put yourself out there
Although we know it’s good to ask for help, and make our needs known, it can still be difficult to do so. Here are some practical pointers to support you:
- Be clear about what would make you feel better. If you just say: “I feel down”, it can be hard for someone to help. Instead, make your request clear. E.g. “I need to talk to someone”; “I would like a hug”; “Could you come over and work at my place? I’m feeling lonely.”
- Share your story. We can get so trapped in our own experience that we assume others simply must understand. Instead, tell your support-network what is going on for you, and how it makes you feel. When they understand, it will be easier for them to support you.
- Make it easy to meet your needs. We don’t always need an intense form of support. Something small can feel very emotionally supportive; like a joke, a phone-call, or just watching a silly movie together. Find a ‘low-cost’ favour that will make you feel better and ask that from your friends. You may both walk away feeling better!
Please note: If you are in an emotional crisis, it may be too hard to reach out to people you know and trust. You can always try any of these help-lines as well:
- Adcock Depression & Anxiety help-line: 0800 70 80 90
- Akeso Psychiatric response 24/7 : 0861 435 787
- ChaiFM Helpline : 0800 24 24 36
- Cipla 24hour mental health helpline: 0800 456 789
- SADAG Suicide prevention line : 0800 567 567
- South Africa Suicide Crisis helpline: 0800 21 22 23 / 0800 12 13 14
- Everyone needs help during the coronavirus pandemic—here’s the psychological reason why asking for it is so hard: cnbc.com
- Ask For Help: Why People Are Twice as Likely to Assist as You Think: Spring.org.uk
- 4 Tips to Effectively Ask for Help—and Get a Yes: Psychologytoday.com
- If you need help, just ask: Underestimating compliance with direct requests for help: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
- How to Ask Your People for Emotional Support: Psychologytoday.com
- Suicide Hotlines and Crisis Lines in South Africa: therapyroute.com
When people ask how you are, the easiest response is to say “I’m fine”, even when you’re not. In fact, a recent study of 2,000 adults revealed that the average adult will say “I’m fine” 14 times per week, yet only 19% actually mean it.
There are several reasons for defaulting to the “I’m fine” answer, but for someone struggling with a mental health illness, the fear of being judged, discriminated against, or stigmatised for their honesty, outweighs any benefit of sharing their emotions.
The truth is, being honest about how you really feel puts authenticity and meaning back into conversation. By opening up you will realise that you are not alone in your journey, and through this, healing can begin. Watch ‘I’m fine’ with Jake Tyler below, or CLICK HERE to watch.