Understanding why it
can be hard to reach out for help

Have you wanted to reach out for support before, but didn’t? You’re not alone. There are very real factors that may prevent you from taking the next step to get help, no matter where you are on your mental health journey. Here, Kids Help Phone shares common barriers that prevent people from reaching out for support, plus first-hand stories from our community.

It’s common to feel like you can only reach out for mental health support when there’s a crisis or when things start to feel overwhelming. However, looking after your mental health when you’re feeling good may actually help you to cope better when things start to feel difficult. Reaching out early and talking to someone in your community who you trust can increase your self-awareness and improve your ability to communicate how you’re feeling.

What are some barriers to reaching out for help?

There are many valid reasons why you may not have reached out for support, which could include one or a combination of the following:

Reasons are
  • not knowing what support is available or where/how to find it
  • having a bad experience reaching out for support previously
  • stigma (being seen/judged negatively based on a personal characteristic like your mental health)
  • experiencing racism and other forms of discrimination
  • difficulty finding free or low-cost services
  • concerns about when you can make time in your schedule
  • lacking a place where you can be alone and have the privacy to share
  • afraid of feeling like a burden
  • thinking your issue is too big or isn’t big/serious enough
  • not sure how to explain what and how you’re feeling/not sure how to start the conversation
  • feeling like you should be able to work through it yourself
  • language barriers and/or not finding support that feels like a good fit culturally
  • worried about confidentiality
  • other reasons

First-hand experiences from the Kids Help Phone community

Here you can read first-hand stories from people who have shared their stories about overcoming barriers.

Societal stigma and gender stereotypes

blockquoteThere is this external stigma on guys that we don’t have feelings — the fact is, we do. Society doesn’t let us naturally talk about our emotions quite as much. But mental illness is a gender neutral challenge — depression is depression no matter what. Just because you’re a guy doesn’t exclude you from getting support.

— Aidan

Feeling unsupported by family

blockquoteI Googled how I was feeling to try and figure out what this thing was called and how to deal with it. I tried to talk to my dad, who told me to talk to my mom. And when I tried to talk to my mom, she just tried to solve my problem and spit all these answers at me that didn’t fit. I felt like I really wasn’t allowed to talk about mental health.

— Alicia

Cultural beliefs and family dynamics

blockquoteCultural beliefs regarding mental health can vary drastically, and the dynamics of every family are unique. This can result in many young people not being comfortable to go to their family for help when they need it most. These issues mean that a lot of young people don’t get the help they need and deserve.

— A member of Kids Help Phone’s National Youth Council (NYC)
Continue reading this youth story about barriers to seeking mental health resources.

Fear of rejection or exclusion

blockquoteI think, because of where I grew up, there wasn’t a lot of openness and talk or support for being LGBTQ2S+. But this is an issue for many Indigenous, remote communities and places in Canada today. It’s so crucial for youth to know they’re supported and loved for who they are.

— Shawnee Kish

Not having the language to talk about it

blockquoteFrom when we are really little, we don’t know how to talk, so we learn language, we learn literacy. We learn how to ask for help for day-to-day challenges. But with abuse, with depression, with mental health, there is still a disconnect. In grade 12, I lacked the literacy to really tell people everything that was going on, and at the same time I didn’t really have a dedicated care team yet, there was no one else there asking me, specifically what was going on. So I was really stuck, and that went on for the next several years.

— Aidan

Stigma and fear of being judged

blockquoteIn certain cultures, there can be negative attitudes and beliefs motivating groups to reject and avoid people struggling with mental ill-health. When I immigrated to Canada, I found it difficult to talk to my parents about any mental health challenges I was facing, out of fear they would criticize me and label me as “weak.” In response to the cultural stigma, I began to internalize the criticism, often hiding my symptoms and feeling ashamed to seek any help.

— A member of Kids Help Phone’s National Youth Council (NYC)
Continue reading this youth story about cultural perceptions of mental health.

It’s OK if it takes time to find the support that’s right for you. Overcoming obstacles to reaching out looks different for everyone. It’s important to remember that your thoughts and feelings matter and you deserve to feel heard, understood and get support. If there are things preventing you from getting help, we’re here for you.

Need more information or support? You can contact Kids Help Phone 24/7.