Use the discussion questions from the SET activity to transition into a conversation about asking for help with regards to mental health. Ask students to brainstorm some signs or symptoms of mental health challenges that may indicate that it’s time to ask for help. Then, use the slide deck to share some of the most common reasons why someone might choose to ask for help.
Try to personalize these reasons by sharing a story or giving an example of the sign/situation that students can relate to. After going through this list of signs, ask students to vote on the following:
Who can benefit from therapy or professional counselling at some point in their life?
- Most people, regardless of a mental illness diagnosis
- Some people
- Only people who have a mental illness
- Very few people (i.e. only those who are in the depths of despair and entirely hopeless)
Take a quick tally of the student's responses. Many students will likely vote that therapy or professional counselling is only appropriate for people who have a mental illness or for “some people”. Try to help students recognize that most people will benefit from professional support at some point in their life. Talk about how seeing a therapist does not make students mentally ill, “crazy”, or incapable of life. On the contrary, many celebrities, public figures, and successful leaders recognize therapy and professional support as being foundational to their health, wellbeing, and continued success. Often, therapists will even see a therapist for themselves! Let students know that, in the future, having an appointment with a therapist will hopefully be talked about as honestly as taking Advil for a headache, or eating Halls for a sore throat. Therapy will hopefully be a regular practice, recognized by many as a proactive way to promote mental health and prevent mental illness.
Now it’s time to share some of the professional resources that students can access if they need mental health support. Similar to the information provided in the READY section, walk students through the school, community, and online resources that are available for them.
Although teaching students about the available services is a good first step, it’s also important to acknowledge that, even though they know about the services, students still may not feel comfortable using the service. Many students will have heard about helplines, like the Kids Help Phone, before, but they would likely be uncomfortable or insecure when it’s time to make the call. The best way to ease these insecurities and build confidence is to practice making that call.
Let the class know that you are going to call the Kids Help Phone so that students get an idea of the process of calling a helpline and so that they know what to expect. Before calling, give students a couple of minutes to brainstorm questions that they have for the person who will be answering the phone.
Ask students to share these questions and, as a class, distill the list down to the “top 5” questions that they would like to have answered. You may find that students don’t have any questions. This might be because they are shy, or because they simply don’t have enough information or knowledge to even have questions.
The Kids Help Phone number is 1-800-668-6868.
Write this number in big letters on the board or flip to the appropriate slide in the slide-deck. As you are dialing the number, say it out loud and get the students to repeat it with you. Here are some steps that you can follow when you make the call:
After finishing the call, check-in with students to answer any additional questions that might have come up. Ask students to reflect on what it was like to call the Kids Help Phone. Use the following questions to guide the conversation:
- Was anything different than expected? If so, what? How was it different?
- What is your biggest take away from the information the counsellor shared with you?
- Did calling the Kids Help Phone make you feel more comfortable accessing these services?
- Is this a resource you might consider using in the future? Why or why not?
Before ending the class, hand each student a “Mental Health Resource Wallet Card”, which they can keep in their wallets, knapsacks, or back pockets. This card helps students know what services are there to support them and how to access those services. You will need to cut-out these cards before class.
Mental Health Resource Wallet Card available in downloads section.
Does asking for help make me weak?
Asking for help can be challenging and you might think that it makes you appear weak. Despite what you think, asking for help actually makes you stronger. Here are some reasons why:
- Asking for help means that you are likely experiencing or doing something that makes you uncomfortable or which you feel unqualified for. Although it’s not always fun in the moment, stepping out of your comfort zone puts you into your growth zone, where you can learn new things and experience personal growth.
- Asking for help shows the people around you that you trust their ideas, appreciate their opinion, value their insight, and feel competent in their skills. By asking for help, you are building a close-knit community of people who are able to support you and who you can support in the future.
- Asking for help allows you to consider diverse perspectives and take more balanced action. When you invite others to share their insight, collaborate with you to accomplish a task, or provide guidance/feedback, you are welcoming a new world of ideas and beliefs that can shape your reality.
- Asking for help shows self-awareness, resourcefulness, and confidence.
- Asking for help reflects self-value. When you ask for help, you recognize that you are not able to take on more and that you have reached, or are close to reaching, a breaking point. Asking for help shows that you value yourself and your wellbeing and that you are willing to prioritize your mental health. That’s powerful.
Anne Wilson Schaef once said, “Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced honesty and intelligence”.
Won’t people think more highly of me if I can overcome a challenge on my own compared to if I need help?
Unfortunately, society has shaped our beliefs such that it seems more valuable or esteemed to put your head down, achieve something remarkable, or do the impossible on your own. However, trying to do something alone creates a lot more stress, work, and uncertainty that could be avoided or minimized by asking for help or collaborating with others. Not only this, but it leaves you feeling lonely and isolated. This loneliness and isolation only increases your risk of experiencing mental health challenges. When you ask for help, you build a community of people who are willing to stand by your side and fight with you. You are creating a support network that can act as your safety net, catching you when you fall, and launching you back into flight. It might be possible to do something on your own but, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Am I burdening other people when I ask for help? Aren’t they really busy?
Yes, people are busy AND they would love to help you if you give them the opportunity. When you assume that people are too busy to help and you use this as an excuse to not ask for help, you aren’t allowing your family, friends, or acquaintances to support you. By thinking of yourself as a burden you are making a decision on behalf of your friends and family. You are deciding that YOU are less important than their work, school, other relationships, and other commitments. Try letting them make their own decisions and you will be surprised by what you find. People want to be there for you. They want to help you and they are likely more burdened by their worries about you and their inability to connect with you when you don’t ask for help.
Is it selfish to ask for help?
Simply asking this question shows that you are not being selfish. No, it’s not selfish to ask for help. You are worthy of help, love, belonging, and support. Everyone has or will experience challenges, and you will be able to help others in the future if you let them help you now.