How to Tell Your Parent or Guardians You Need Mental Help 2021


Mental illness can feel scary. Your neurons are working in ways that you cannot rationally control, and you face stigma and disbelief from others. Needing to tell your parent(s) or guardian(s) can make an already frightening situation even more terrifying. However, with thought and preparation, the task can be overcome.


1Do your research. Read up on your symptoms, and find a few potential disorders that match your symptoms. (It is best not to latch onto one single diagnosis, to prevent bias during the professional diagnostic process.) Read both medical descriptions, and descriptions from people who have the disorders.

Consider the fact that you may not be mentally ill, but may have a neurological disorder (such as autism), a food allergy, or another illness that needs treating.

2Be prepared to field questions from your parents/guardians. They'll take time to adjust to the news. Be ready to respond to questions and comments such as:

How long have you felt like this?

How severe is it? (Reflect on your past to think of several examples that demonstrate something is unusual with your brain.)

Could you have something else? (You can show them the disorders that best matched your symptoms, and mention the disorders that you researched and ruled out.)

What sort of treatment do you think you need?

3Pick a good time to talk. You want to minimize stress for both you and your parent(s)/guardian(s). An ideal time is when...

There are no major tasks to be done at the moment. Try long car rides, quiet meals, washing dishes after supper, etc.

Both you and they feel relaxed.

You can speak in private without likely interruptions.

You can access a computer or papers with some of your research (optional).

4Get straight to the point. For example,"Dad, I have something important to tell you and I really need your attention. I think I have depression."Being direct signals that you are serious.

Avoid throwing subtle hints beforehand, drifting off topic, or making jokes. If you do so, they may not realize how important it is for them to take you seriously.

5Give them some time to let it sink in. Your parent(s)/guardian(s) will probably feel surprised, worried, and confused. Be prepared to reassure them.

Don't worry if they react badly. Sometimes people deny it ("But you're so normal! You can't be mentally ill"), rationalize their denial ("It's just side effects from your asthma meds/worries about college/alien abduction"), or overreact ("Are you going to die? Should I call an ambulance?"). Do not panic. This is temporary. Any decent parent or guardian will overcome this and do their best to help you get treatment.

You may have to assure them that it's not their fault, they raised you well and it's only coming from chemicals in your brain, you aren't planning on suicide (assuming that this is true), and that you've researched this and understand how to proceed.

If you have been considering suicide, explain that you want to live, and this is why you are telling them instead of keeping quiet.

6Encourage them to trust your judgment and let you see a professional. They will probably feel a little lost due to the shock, and you can guide them with your educated perspective. Ask to set up an appointment to your family doctor, who can evaluate you, provide medication, and/or refer you specialists.

If you have health insurance, your insurance company may be able to recommend some experts. Check their website.

Consider therapy, medication, and noninvasive alternative treatments (e.g. dance therapy).