Recognizing When to Reach Out for Help for Yourself or Your Family

The course of life is rarely smooth. Each of us will have various challenges and struggles to overcome on our journey. For many families, this is likely to include mental health difficulties.  Indeed, as 1 in 5 Canadians experience mental illness each year, it can seem somewhat inevitable. The good news is, your family isn’t powerless in this situation. There are help and resources out there.

Nevertheless, navigating mental health isn’t always quite so simple. Many people find it difficult to reach out and ask for assistance. This isn’t about stubbornness or denial. Simply recognizing the right time to seek help can be difficult in itself. Not to mention that some people aren’t fully aware of whom they can reach out to.

We’re going to take a moment to review how to recognize when to seek help for you or your family and how to do so.

Situational Awareness

One of the most important parts of recognizing when you or your family might need mental health assistance is being aware of the external influencing factors.

At various points in life, there will be situations that can create turbulence in emotional or mental wellness. This doesn’t always develop into a full crisis. Nevertheless, your family’s ability to notice and acknowledge when circumstances are likely to cause additional strain is a valuable tool.

This isn’t always the easiest to recognize from the inside. Like many people, you or members of your family may be used to just plowing through the tough times. In some ways, this can be a form of resilience. But in others, it can be a hallmark of a problematic tendency to minimize genuinely stressful parts of life.

As such, your family needs to start cultivating a habit of open communication about your lives. This doesn’t have to be anything as formal as a weekly family meeting. Get used to talking to one another about what you’re experiencing at work, school, or in your social lives. Discuss what’s making you anxious or stressed. Don’t just wait until periods of uncertainty arise

In many ways, this is one of the first forms of reaching out when you or your family need help. You’re regularly connecting to gain clarity on the challenges of life. They can empathize with you and validate your feelings. It also means you can work together on establishing whether this is something you can deal with independently or something in need of professional guidance

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Signs and Symptoms

Another tool for recognizing when it’s time to reach out is gaining some familiarity with the signs of potential mental health concerns.

This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to head to a search engine and self-diagnose. Nevertheless, you should become familiar with the symptoms of common conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress.

Alongside these, learn to understand the signs of mental and emotional wellness in yourself. This helps you to more easily recognize when you’re starting to pull away from this baseline.

It isn’t just the mental or emotional symptoms that you and your family need to be aware of, though. Your body can present physical signs of emotional or mental strain. Common symptoms include headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, and muscle tension/pain. Also, it is not unusual for people living with stress to experience skin conditions, such as psoriasis and acne. This is often a result of the body’s reaction to the chemicals released due to certain types of brain activity. Therefore, you and your family need to be as cognizant of any physical changes alongside the mental aspects.

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Once you’re familiar with the potential signs and symptoms, your family needs to develop habits of mindfulness.

Check in with yourselves every day. Often, keeping a diary can be a useful tool here. Writing down how you’re feeling can give you a sense of the direction of your mood and health. Take how you’re feeling seriously

Importantly, make it clear to your family that speaking up about concerns regarding any physical or mental symptoms is encouraged.

Create a stigma-free environment so you each get the support you need. Whether that’s professional assistance or simple opportunities for comfort and self-care.

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Reaching Out

Reaching out when there is mental distress is often the hardest part of the process. After all, there’s a lot of social and personal baggage surrounding the issue.

Nevertheless, it’s vital to understand that remaining silent on the issue can lead to damaging outcomes.

In many cases, your family doctor or local mental health professionals are the best places to start. Don’t feel as though you or your family need to delay because you’re unsure the symptoms or situations are serious enough. You’re not inconveniencing anyone by seeking help

Remember, healthcare workers, such as psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners are empathetic professionals. They’re trained to not just provide medical advice, but also to treat you with respect and provide reassurance. This in itself can certainly lighten the mental load. The important thing is to just start the process.

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If you or a family member is not comfortable with talking to a professional in person, there are an increasing number of telehealth services available.

This can remove a lot of the discomfort and anxiety of discussing mental health in an unusual setting.

There are also various crisis lines for those in immediate distress or at risk of suicide. It can be wise to keep a list of such numbers and services in a place where all family members can access them privately and independently until such time they feel able to talk to you about their concerns.


You or your family may face mental health challenges at various points in your lives.

It’s important to be open and communicative about the external factors that might trigger or exacerbate unwellness

Becoming familiar with symptoms of mental illness and maintaining regular mindfulness can also boost your recognition

Remember that there are various in-person and remote sources of help available to you

It’s not always easy, but learning to reach out can empower you and your family to address any concerns.

Written by Frankie Wallace

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