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Mental health and young people

If you feel that you have a mental health problem, then we know that you will probably be feeling very disorientated and not like your usual self; you may also feel like this is something you should keep to yourself. You may not want to tell anyone as you think that people will think badly of you or won't understand how you feel. In addition, even though you know you don't feel like yourself, it can be difficult to translate how you feel inside into words.

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Telling someone how you are feeling

It can be difficult to talk to your parents, teachers or friends at the best of times, but if you are experiencing mental health issues then the thought of opening up and talking about it to an adult can be extra scary. Sometimes it can seem like you’re the only person in the world who has ever felt the way you’re feeling, and that nobody would be able to understand.

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What happens if you don’t tell anybody?

If you don’t feel ready to talk to anyone about how you are feeling, then you may feel even worse and you may find that you ‘close up’ and shut yourself off from the people that you love.

If somebody you loved was ill, then you would want them to tell you, so you could be there for them and get them the help they needed, wouldn’t you? Well it is no different with mental health – whoever you choose to tell will want to help you. But for them to help you, you need to tell them first.

Mental health issues can happen to anyone, just like catching a cold or breaking your arm, and you should not feel ashamed or guilty if you are affected.  One of the problems with mental health is that the illness itself can trick your brain into thinking this is your fault or that nobody would understand what you’re going through.  Talking to someone can help you break free of these feelings and show you that others love you, understand how you feel and want to help.

If you really don’t feel ready to talk to anyone you know about the way you are feeling at this stage, then there are organisations who offer both phone lines and online chat services that you can contact.

As another alternative, until you’re ready to talk to someone, you might find it useful to keep a diary or journal of your thoughts and feelings. Keeping your feelings inside can be toxic, and recording them somewhere can often help to untangle what can be confusing, upsetting and negative thoughts.

How to tell someone you have a mental health issue

How you choose to tell someone is up to you – the main thing is just to open up. There is no right or wrong answer; if you don’t feel comfortable in telling them face to face, you may find it easier to write your feelings down in a letter and give it to them. Or you may want to talk to them over the phone rather than seeing them in person.

 

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Some things you may feel very uncomfortable talking about, for example, someone physically, sexually or emotionally treating you in a way which is wrong. It is very important for you to remember that, whatever you have been told by the person who is mistreating you, abuse is never, ever your fault.  It is difficult to talk about these issues, whatever your age or your experience, but keeping these feelings inside can be very harmful and painful for you in the long-run.

What happens when you tell someone?

Get the tissues out as this might be emotional! This is perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed about. Similarly, you might not feel the way you expected to when talking to someone. Again, this is perfectly natural. Everyone reacts to different situations in different ways, and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to behave in any way that isn’t completely natural. The person that you tell may get emotional too and again, this is completely natural and nothing to feel bad about. It may be that the person you chose to tell may be relieved that you have opened up to them. They may have noticed some changes in your behaviour and will have not been able to work out why. Now you have told them they may be able to talk about this with you and able to give you the help you need to look after yourself.

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It is likely that the person you tell will suggest that you should get medical help. Don’t get angry or upset about this, or feel as though you are being judged. They are trying their best to help you. If you had a broken arm, they would say go to the hospital, so them saying the same for mental illness is no different. Tackling mental health issues can be a long process; we would encourage you to focus on how much better you will feel when your issues have been addressed, and always remember that you deserve to feel happy.

We know you can do it!

The idea of asking for help and telling someone close to you how you are feeling can be scary, but we bet that you have done a lot of things in your life that you thought would be scary and afterwards wondered what all the fuss was about! Again, we would urge you to focus on the fact that this is your first step to feeling a lot better, and remembering that you deserve to be happy.

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If someone tells you that they have a mental illness

If you are a teenager or young person, you may not be familiar with mental health problems and may not know what to say. Even when you want to support them, it can be difficult to know what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Often just being there for them and listening can be hugely valuable; there’s no script for this situation and there’s no single set of right or wrong things to do or say.

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One of the most difficult things for you to judge is whether you need to keep the information confidential or talk to someone else about it, and you need to consider it carefully. It is always a good idea to suggest that someone experiencing mental health issues contacts their doctor or a mental health professional, who can also help them decide on their next steps. However, if you believe that the person who has spoken to you about their mental health is in danger of harming themselves or someone else, then you should talk to an adult that you trust. Although this might be a very difficult choice for you, you need to seek further help if you believe that someone is at risk of hurting themselves.

Look after yourself so you can better help your friend

If your friend has told you that they are suffering from a mental health issue, then this may cause you to feel stressed and anxious about their health. If you are the only person to whom they have spoken, that could feel like a lot of pressure on your shoulders.

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Remember that whilst you need to be there for your friend, you are not medically trained to deal with mental illnesses (you wouldn’t try to fix a broken leg, would you?!) If your friend doesn’t seek help from professional people and instead relies on you, then it might be useful for both of you to have a chat about them seeking medical help. They have chosen to reach out to you to talk about how they are feeling and may also value your help with taking the next steps.

 

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