How to Ask for Help
If you’re having trouble with mental health, drugs, or alcohol, it can help to talk about it with someone you trust. They can give you support, ease your burden, and help you find a path to feeling better.
As you think about who to talk to—and what you might say—it’s normal to feel a lot of emotions. Asking for help is hard and might seem scary, so here are some tips for preparing yourself. A little planning can make the conversation easier, and you’re likely to get better results.
Think about what you want
We all want to feel supported and understood, especially when things seem out of control. When you talk to someone, make it clear what you need today.
Do you need help finding a health care professional or a support group? Love and support? Or just someone to listen? Tell them this up front.
Decide who to talk to
It's important to talk to someone you trust and can speak openly with. Think through if the person can relate to your situation, if they're a good listener, and if they won't judge you.
Talking to someone and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. People who are close to you want to help.
Consider reaching out to a:
- Family member
- Religious or spiritual leader
- Health care professional
- Support group
- Helpline (If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You’ll be able to speak with a trained crisis counselor any time of day or night.)
Not everyone will be able to listen or help, keep reaching out until you find someone who will encourage and support you.
Choose the right time and place
If you plan to talk one-on-one, find the right time to talk in a comfortable, private setting. If the person is in another location, ask them to find a space that is private too (for example, if they live with others, including children, ask for a time when they're not at home).
Think about which option works best for you and the other person: in person, over the phone, or a video call. Set up a specific day and time to talk so you know they’ll be available.
Know what can keep you calm–and do it while asking for help. For example, you may want to go for a walk, be outside, or have a favorite item to hold.
When you ask your friend or loved one to talk, you might say, “I’d like to talk to you about something that’s important and personal to me. When’s a good time?”
How to talk about it
If you feel tense, take several deep, calming breaths. Remember that you’re important to this person.
When you talk, describe your feelings, thoughts, moods, and how your body feels. Give them a clear picture of your situation, and tell them what you need. Be as specific as you can.
Lots of people ask for help with:
- Finding a health care professional or program
- Finding a support group or local program
- Making appointments
- Rides to appointments
- Emotional and moral support
If you’re not sure you’re ready for a full conversation yet, say so. Start small if you need to.
Some conversation starters are:
- Can I tell you about something that’s been troubling me?
- I’m feeling really lonely lately. Would it be ok if we set up time once a week to talk on the phone?
- I think it’s time for me to get help. Do you know any doctors that treat mental health, drugs, or alcohol?
- I’m having a hard time getting things done, could you help me call a few therapists to find one taking new patients?
- I’m struggling to manage my recovery. Do you know of any local support groups?
- I’m having a hard time with my recovery. Do you know of any local support groups?
If you talk to a health care professional, they will ask you questions to understand your needs. Answering clearly and honestly helps them help you. Learn what to expect from treatment.
You’ve taken a big step by asking for help. Take a moment to be proud of yourself for being strong. It’s normal to feel stressed, nervous, or tired after having such a personal conversation.
If the person is willing to help, reach out and thank them for their support and follow up on the things they can help with.
If the conversation didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, try again. Or consider talking to someone with a different viewpoint. People are all very different and can react in surprising ways. Their reaction shouldn’t stop you from getting help. Here are some steps you can take on your own, any time.