How to Ask for Your Mental Health Needs to Be Met?

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among people aged 15–44.

Yet, the World Health Organization reports that Between 30 and 80 percent of people with mental health concerns never receive treatment.

Why don’t sufferers get help? I would argue that it is largely due to the stigma attached to mental illness as well as the practical barriers — such as availability and the accessibility of treatment. It doesn’t need to go untreated.

It is possible to ask for your mental health needs to be met, to feel supported, and to live a comfortable, happy, life.

Sufferers of mental illness, myself included, have feelings of fear and shame about their illness — they don’t want to be labelled as ‘mentally ill’. This can lead to feeling inadequate and wanting to cover up the illness, which will only exacerbate the problem.

The stigma associated with mental illness can lead to discrimination which could have adverse effects on one’s education, career, and life goals.

But leaving mental illness untreated can lead to worsening symptoms, other physical illness, suicide, job loss, or incarceration. It need not get this far.

I felt like I suffered for too long and had to get help, and ask for the support that I needed — in the workplace, at home, and amongst friends and family.

Asking for your needs to be met can be challenging; we fear confrontation, rejection, further stigma and possible discrimination. But you may find, as I did (on more than one occasion), that the people you ask for help will be more supportive that you might have anticipated, and your fears are unfounded — they often are!

Here is how I asked for my needs to be met:

  1. I first accessed treatment from a trained mental health professional, who provided an individualized plan based on my diagnosis and individual needs.
  2. I took the time to consider what exactly my needs were in relation to work and home life. I asked myself if I needed time out, or a less stressful environment, or whether I could make adjustments to my current job? Did I want friends and family to call me regularly, or come by with some groceries when I was really struggling? Was I asking for specific change, and, if I was, were those changes realistic?
  3. When talking to others, I approached the conversation in an assertive and non-emotive way, using phrases like ‘I need’ and ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You should’.
  4. I met with my boss and told them about my illness, any doctors recommendations, and what that meant for me. I had my prepared list of needs and I asked if we could work through stressors in the workplace, and a strategy for when I felt overwhelmed. We looked at areas where we could reduce my workload and any environmental changes that I needed, such as sitting next to a window, and taking regular breaks.

By asking for my needs to be met, I felt supported and relieved that I no longer had to conceal my suffering. Mental illness is not a sign of failure, or a lack of coping skills.

There is hope and there are many treatment options available, just ask.