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how to help your child get help

25 Feb 2019
It’s not easy to support a young person to get professional help – especially if they don’t want it. Here are some tips on how to have these conversations.

Would a young person in your life benefit from professional help? Conversations about mental health can be scary, and we don’t always know how to encourage someone to get support. Professional help can make a big difference to a young person’s quality of life – and the sooner they access that support, the better.

As much as you might want to, you can’t ‘fix things’ for them – but you can support them in getting professional support. Here are some tips on how to do that.

 

Listen to their concerns

Getting support can be a really difficult decision to make. Therapy may make you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable – and thanks to popular culture, a lot of us have misconceptions about what it involves.

One of the most valuable things you can do is listen to a young person’s concerns and talk them through them in a calm, supportive way. There are lots of reasons why someone might be reluctant to get professional help. They may need more information about it works, they may feel embarrassed or judged, or perhaps they don't think their problems are 'bad enough'. Talk through these concerns with the young person in a calm and curious way.

Empathise

Like people of all ages, young people aren’t always keen on the idea of getting support. They might seem resistant, afraid, unsure or just uninterested.

It’s completely normal to feel upset, frustrated or afraid for your child. One understandable reaction is to want to ‘force’ them into getting support. But young people usually don’t like feeling pressured into things – even if they secretly want help.

It’s important to remember that they’re going through a tough time, and that professional help usually works a lot better when the person wants to be there. It’s possible to give clear, honest advice while also giving a young person the space to have some ownership over their decision. Listen to what they’re saying, ask lots of questions and speak to them in an empathetic, non-judgemental way.

 

Give them practical support

It’s also helpful to remember that there are different types of professional support available. Once your child has decided that they want help, there are lots of different ways you can support them.

Mental health care plan

A mental health plan allows a person to get up to ten subsidised or free sessions with a mental health professional. You can help your child get one by explaining how it works and organising an appointment at the doctor. Then you could support them by helping them find a practitioner, booking, preparing, and helping them get to their appointment.

School, TAFE and uni counsellors

If your child is currently enrolled in education, there are probably mental health professionals available there who are experts in supporting young people. You could talk about this with your child and point them in the direction of these services.

Be there for them (and give them space)

Your child might want you to come with them to the doctors, and might even want you to go with them to their mental health care appointment. It’s best to discuss if that’s a good idea with the professional. On the other hand, they might not want to talk about what they discussed with the doctor or practitioner at all. It’s important to respect these boundaries and remember they’ll open up to you once they’re ready.

Intervene in emergencies

If your child is younger or at risk of hurting themselves or others, getting help is the number one priority. Speak to the Kids Help Line (Phone: 1800 55 1800) or Lifeline (Phone 13 11 14) for advice. If there’s an immediate danger, contact the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT) for specialised mental health help or call 000.

 

Direct them to headspace

headspace has a fantastic spectrum of services for young people who are still getting used to the idea of speaking to a mental health professional. It’s all free and anonymous. Depending on where they’re at, you could suggest that your child:

Explore our website

We have lots of useful content related to different aspects of mental health. You might like to link them to a particular page or article.

Contact their local headspace centre

There are over a hundred across Australia with a range of mental health professionals.

Join a group chat

These anonymous conversations with clinicians are a great, low-commitment ‘entry point’ for someone with a question or concern.

Sign on to eheadspace

This service allows young people to have sessions with a mental health professional online.

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