mental health

It’s bravery, not weakness: the importance of reaching out for help Posted by Justine Clarabut on 18 June, 2019

Mental ill-health is a heavy burden to bear.

This debilitating experience can leave a mark in all aspects of life. Physically, emotionally, socially and occupationally, mental ill-health takes its toll. Thankfully, getting help can make a big difference.

Yet 75% of people in England who need mental health support fail to access the necessary treatment. It begs the question: why is it so difficult to get the support they need? Many things can contribute but, for many people, the issue often boils down to this:

One of the first steps to getting help, is asking for it.

And, in today’s society, that’s far easier said than done. In honour of Samaritans Awareness Day on 24th July, we wanted to spend a moment addressing this issue. After all, here’s an organisation founded on the value of seeking support in times of emotional need!

Taking inspiration from their example, we want to demonstrate how, a) contrary to popular opinion, reaching out for help is a sign of bravery, and b) it’s a vital step to feeling better.

The Stigma Behind Seeking Help

Help should come as easily as uttering three simple words: “Please help me.” Unfortunately, though, it’s rarely as straight-forward as that. Try as you might, the words don’t come. It can feel like they take on physical form. They catch in your mouth and you swallow them whole.

Why? Because we live in a society that generally glorifies resilience and scorns weakness.

The UK is particularly bad. After all, this is a nation built upon a ‘stiff upper lip’. It’s ‘keep calm and carry on’, not ‘break down and ask for help’. When something goes wrong, we’re taught to grin and bear it. To do anything else is somehow shameful.

Unfortunately, this has sad repercussions when distress is present. It creates stigma that’s hard to subvert. There’s a felt expectation of right and wrong- of good and bad.

Objectively, they may be three simple words. But behind them often lies a deeper significance of damaged pride, shame, and feelings of failure.

The Courage to Ask for Help

The reason asking for help is so difficult is the very same reason it takes such courage.

Everything we just mentioned creates a pressure to be okay; to wear a smile and walk through life unaided. Asking for help requires someone to push against that. Fundamentally, they have to do something they probably don’t want to.

Ultimately, to utter ‘please help me’ is to become vulnerable voluntarily.

The veil of self-confidence has to be shed. The individual places themselves under scrutiny, to which a keen sense of shame can follow. Indeed, shame and vulnerability go hand in hand. Asking for help forces anyone into a confrontation with both.

None of that is easy. In many ways, the simpler thing is to suffer in silence. Far from weakness then, reaching out for help requires a hearty dose of courage and strength. It’s praiseworthy and admirable.

Furthermore, it helps dispel the stigma that’s attached to it.

Indeed, often, all it takes is one person to come forward for others to follow. Others see what happened and find the courage to do the same. 

getting help

The Importance of Getting Support

This quote from Steven Aitchison just about sums it up: “Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open.”

There’s nothing more isolating than being left alone with your problems.

Like a wound that’s left untreated, negative feelings and experiences begin to worsen. A minor problem can quickly become a major one. The situation can escalate to a point of overwhelm and problems begin to creep into other areas of life.

Getting help as early as possible can limit the damage. As we all know, a problem shared is a problem halved but that’s far easier said than done.

Saying the words feels like removing a heavy weight from your shoulders and sharing the burden with others. Long-held concerns for how personal problems will be received are lifted. In the vast majority of cases, people get nothing but support, empathy and encouragement.

Furthermore, practical advice and input can follow. As we’ve seen, not nearly enough people get access to the mental health treatment they need.

Asking for help can be the catalyst required to get the ball rolling.

getting help

Who and Where to Ask for Help

Thankfully, there are lots of places to turn to for support these days.

Going to a GP is often a good starting point. They’ll be able to empathise with any experience and signpost someone to the necessary services.

Look at the local community as well. Often, there are numerous charities and organisations, like the Samaritans, operating nearby that can offer a variety of assistance. Of course, friends and family can be a vital life-line too.

Equally, employers can (and should) be an important source of help too. As mental health becomes an ever larger conversation, it’s their responsibility to take steps to support the wellbeing of their employees in the workplace.

Time to Reach Out

As we’ve seen, reaching out for help isn’t easy. But suffering in silence is even harder. Hopefully, this article has encouraged anyone struggling with their mental health to be brave enough to seek the support they need.

For employers reading this, Wellbeing People offer numerous mental health services that can help you provide the right support for your staff team. An employee assistance program, mental health first-aid training, and healthy mind workshops are just three such examples.

Be sure to get in touch for more information.