Gary McClain, is a therapist who specializes in helping clients deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Think back to when you first reached out for help from a mental health professional. If you’re like many people, you probably hesitated for awhile, maybe a long while, before you took the first step. What held you back?
Or, maybe you are considering taking that first step but haven’t done it yet. What’s holding you back?
Over the years, I have heard a lot of reasons from clients as to why it took them so long to ask for help. And unfortunately, I've also often heard why they decided not to stick with it after they got the process going.
So I thought it might be helpful to list reasons not to ask for help. And just in case any of them sound familiar, I’m giving you some ideas on how to argue back.
I don’t want people to know. Stigma around mental illness still exists. But we can’t stop other people from thinking what they want to think. So why let someone else’s ignorance stand in the way of getting the help that you need?
It costs too much. Health insurance plans cover treatment for mental illness. Community mental health clinics offer low or no cost treatment. It might take some time, and some digging, but chances are you can find a resource that can help you.
The way I feel is temporary. Symptoms of anxiety or depression can be temporary, such as when life events like a break-up or a death in the family occur. But sometimes we need some professional help in dealing with all the emotions that this event brings up, especially if the symptoms persist, and are interfering with your ability to function at your best. In other words, the symptoms may not go away by themselves.
I’m not ready. I hear this one a lot. And my answer is always the same: How much worse do you need to feel before you ask for help? I know it’s hard to take that first step, but the longer you talk yourself out of it the longer you are missing out on the benefits of getting help.
What will I have to do? I am always saddened when clients tell me they delayed making contact because they were afraid they might be forced into treatment they don’t feel comfortable with, such as having to meet three or four times a week, or even forced onto medication they don’t want to take. Mental health professionals have different approaches, and you have a choice as to whom you choose to work with and what treatment you choose to consent to.
I’m afraid of what might come up. Yes, lots of memories and emotions might come up in therapy. But you will be working with a professional who knows how to help you to sort through and then learn to cope with these memories and emotions. That’s how therapy helps you to get better.
I’m afraid I might change too much. Clients often tell me they are afraid they might lose aspects of their personality that they don’t want to lose, such as becoming less emotionally expressive, or losing the emotional “highs.” Treatment is not about turning you into a robot. It’s about helping you to function at your best so that you can participate more fully in life. And if you have this fear, then this is something to discuss with the mental health professional you are working with.
I can handle this on my own. Okay, so you want to be the strong, silent type. Or you feel like you need to prove to others, or to yourself, that you can cope on your own. Maybe you can. But I would also say that a sign of bravery is being able to admit you need help and then reaching out. Why struggle alone when help is available? Now that’s a way to be a role model!
And of course, remember the advice I give to everyone. Don’t go through this alone!
Now, it’s your turn:
Was it difficult for you to reach out for help? If so, what got in the way?
And if you’re still hesitating, what’s stopping you? How can we help?