Asking an adult for help

If you have a problem you can’t fix on your own, it’s a good idea to speak to an adult you trust. Telling someone you need help isn’t always easy, so read our advice on how to do it.

How can talking to an adult help?

Talking about your problems is the best way to get the support. Often, someone else can help you see things differently. They can help you change things that are upsetting you, or give you new ideas to cope. Once you tell someone, they can be there for you in the future too.

Putting things into words helps as well. Sometimes it’s just good to say what’s on your mind. Talking to someone could make you feel like you don’t have to deal with it on your own and make things feel more manageable.

Top tips to remember:

  • choose someone you feel safe with
  • plan what you want to say
  • make sure it’s a good time to talk and that they aren't distracted 
  • you have control over how much you tell someone - you don’t have to say everything if you don’t want to
  • if you’re not sure if they'll keep what you have said to themselves, you can ask them before you say anything.

Who should I talk to?

If you want to ask an adult for help, make sure it’s a person you trust and feel safe with. They might be someone you feel close to, or have helped you with something before. They could be anyone, such as a:

  • parent, carer, or someone else in your family
  • friend’s parent or carer, or a neighbour
  • teacher, sports coach or a member of staff at your school
  • doctor, school nurse or a school counsellor
  • religious leader.

 Talking to a counsellor can help you work out who that trusted person could be for you.

Write someone a letter

Writing a letter can be a great way to start a conversation with someone you trust. Especially if telling someone in person seems difficult. 

If you're thinking about sending a letter or message, it can help to: 

  • decide who you'll give it to and when
  • remember you don't need to say everything if you don't want to
  • think about whether the letter might need to be shared, especially if someone's worried about your safety 
  • be careful about saving it on a shared device
  • plan what you'd like to do next.

ways to feel confident

Prepare

Planning what you want to say can really help you feel ready to start talking. Preparation means you know what you want to say and you feel less nervous about saying it.

Do you want to tell them everything, or just some of it? Think of a few examples of the problem you're having. This can help them understand the situation.

Explain how you feel. This can also help the adult understand.

Practise

Go over what you want to say. Practise out loud in front of a mirror. Or just say the words in your head.

Try to think of how the conversation with the adult will sound and where you would have it. This can help you feel more confident about it. You could write down what you want to say to help you remember.

Try our tips for being assertive and building confidence.

Find the right time to talk

You should ask for help when you feel ready and after you’ve thought about what you want to say.

Try to find a time when the adult won’t be too busy or about to rush off somewhere. For example, if you want to tell a teacher, make sure it’s after a lesson when they'll be free to listen properly.

Or if you're going to tell a parent, try not to do it when they're doing something like cooking. 

Talking about your mental health

Lots of things make people scared to talk about their mental health. You might be worried about not being taken seriously or being told that you’re overreacting.

But talking about your mental health doesn’t have to be awkward. And talking about it can make a big difference in how you feel.

Not sure what to say? Try:

  • writing down what’s happening. You could list what you’re worried about, and say how long it’s been going on for
  • think about what help you’d like. You might want to go to the doctor, or just want someone to be there to listen. Even if you don’t know what you want, it can help to think about what might help you
  • only share what you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to say everything if you’re not ready, and you don’t need to say it all at once if you don’t want to

Take a look at our other pages on mental health.

How to start a conversation

Try these conversation starters:

  • “I want to tell you something but I don’t know how.”
  • “This is hard for me to say, but I have something important to tell you.”
  • “I need some advice on something I’m stressed about.”

Or you could say that you’re asking for advice for a friend. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend you aren’t talking about yourself. If the adult is supportive, you could tell them that you're really talking about yourself.

Talk about other stuff

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to bring up a difficult issue. So you could do it by talking about something else that mentions the issue you want to talk about. It could be anything, like Facebook or TV or a book. Or even something at school.

Young people have told us:

  • “I found it hard to tell my dad I have anorexia, so I said: ‘What do you think about that person on Hollyoaks who is anorexic?’”
  • “It was too difficult to say to my grandma that my mum hits me, so I said: ‘Today at school we talked about what domestic violence is.”
  • “I first told my mum that I feel low all the time by asking her if she had seen a show on TV about depression.” 

Will they keep what I’ve said private?

Different professionals (like doctors and teachers) have different rules about keeping something they’ve been told private or confidential. It also depends on what you tell them. Sometimes it's down to their own personal decision.

If they’re worried about your safety, some adults have to tell someone else. This is so they can help you in the best way.

If you’re worried about confidentiality, you can ask them about it before you tell them anything. Most professionals have a responsibility to tell you their policy. 

Don't want to talk face-to-face?

Talking to someone about a problem you’re having can be scary. Doing it in person can feel especially worrying. That’s natural. You can do it in writing, if this is easier. You could write an email, letter or text message. 

But remember that writing something means there's a record of what you’ve said. So it’s important to keep it private. For example, an email is just between you and the person but social networks can be more public.

You could also draw a picture. Drawing can be a good way to explain what you’re going through.

Doc Ready also has advice to help you prepare to speak to a doctor about your mental health.