In times of need, meaningful support can help you get through your struggles in a healthy way.
The solace and guidance that a trusted confidante offers can help you feel less alone and more hopeful for a positive resolution.
Furthermore, talking about your problems may provide a new perspective while lifting the weight off your shoulders.
It should come as no surprise that different people need different kinds of help to cope with their problems.
If you’re not sure who to talk to about your problems, here are 7 options:
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist if you’re not sure who to talk to or you don’t have anyone to talk about your problems to. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
You may have friends who are willing to listen to you vent when you’re going through hard times, but you likely don’t have that kind of relationship with all of your friends.
Not all friendships are the problem-sharing type, and that’s okay.
In the mental health and support sphere of the internet, you will often see people suggesting that someone who doesn’t support you in opening up isn’t a “real friend.”
That’s just incorrect.
Some people don’t feel comfortable providing support, some are too emotionally exhausted to provide support, and some may be triggered by the subject matter.
It’s not that these people aren’t your “real friends.” They may genuinely care about you and want you to succeed; they just aren’t able to provide the support you need right now.
You don’t need to cut those people out, as it may leave you lonely and isolated, you just need to establish which friendships are the problem-sharing type.
So how can you tell?
Consider the relationship.
What kind of relationship do you have with this person? Are they more of a casual acquaintance that you only see occasionally or when you’re doing something fun?
If so, they may not be the right person. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad friend. They’re just a different kind of friend.
Ask for permission.
You can remove the guesswork from, “Can I talk to my friend?” by just asking, “Hey, I’m going through some stuff right now. Would you mind if I vented to you? Maybe help me come up with a solution or provide some additional perspective?”
Then they can say yes or no.
Even if you already know they are a problem-sharing friend, it’s good etiquette to check they are still willing and able to listen.
They may not be in a good mental space themselves and you want to avoid trauma dumping on them when they don’t have the emotional bandwidth to listen.
A spouse or a family member are obvious people to turn to when you’re having a problem. They can often provide empathy, support, understanding, and advice.
The fact is, not everyone has a healthy, loving, supportive family. Some people suck, and the people that suck often have families. That may be your family member.
Again, you want to put some consideration into whether your family member is the kind of person you want to vent to. Look at the way they’ve treated you in the past and the way they behave toward others.
Does this family member weaponize your problems to use them against you? Do they gossip and talk about the problems of others who confide in them? Are they the kind of person whose advice you would actually take?
Another issue to consider is whether you can reach out to your family without feeling like a burden. This applies to friends too.
Perhaps your family tries to make you feel guilty for talking about your problems, or perhaps you’ve had bad experiences with this in the past. If you’re dealing with a chronic problem, you may just be fed up talking about it. Those are all valid perspectives.
If you feel like a burden when reaching out to friends or family, you can instead reach out somewhere where talking about your problems is expected.
That may be a support group, an online community, or a mental health professional. Mental health professionals are paid to listen to problems. Everyone in a support group or online community has signed up to be there to learn or provide support.
3. Support groups.
A support group is valuable because you’re with other people who are going through similar things to you.
You’ll find people who have gone through what you’re facing and who you can learn from. On the other hand, you may have experiences you can provide that can literally save someone’s life by giving them hope or pointing them in the right direction.
“But I don’t want to open up to a group of strangers!”
That’s fair and valid.
However, sometimes it’s the best choice.
Support groups operate under the expectation that everything said within the group stays within the group.
That means you can be more honest in the group than with friends and family. You may self-censor with people in your personal life because you don’t want your business spread around. You don’t need to do that with a support group.
In a good support group, no one should pressure you to open up and share. It’s assumed that everyone coming into the group is likely not having a good time and is feeling nervous and scared.
New members need to see that it’s a safe, supportive environment. So go for a couple of meetings, check the vibe of the group, and then decide whether it’s for you. Expect to be greeted and for some introductions to be made if they are trying to help you feel comfortable.
If you’re trying to get sober, programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can be a massive help to sobering up and staying sober. You may be turned off by certain facets of the programs, but nothing is perfect. Take what you can use and leave the rest behind.
4. Online communities.
Oh, boy—online communities.
Online communities can be really hit or miss for several reasons.
On one hand, you can connect with people from all over the world who are going through similar problems from the convenience of your home. There’s a lot to be said about learning from your peers about how to navigate your problem, find a solution, and get support.
Offline support groups don’t exist in a lot of places, or they may just be bad environments. Online communities can help to fill that gap.
However, there are some issues you want to be aware of.
Some online communities are poorly managed.
Poorly managed and moderated communities can make your problem (and mental health) worse.
You have no idea who is sitting on the other side of the screen spewing whatever information they want. It may not be healthy. It may be misinformation. It may be advice that could actually harm you.
Good moderators will kill those posts. Absent or bad moderators will not.
If you join an online community and moderation is poor, leave.
Be wary of predators.
You may see people offering to talk through Direct Messages, often abbreviated to DMs.
Bad idea. Never do that.
You may find yourself harassed, manipulated, pressured, stalked, or with someone trying to use your vulnerability to hook up.
If someone genuinely wants to talk and help, they should do it publicly so that the community can see what they’re doing.
Predators target vulnerable people, and online communities and support groups are often where vulnerable people gather.
Do not use your real name.
I highly recommend not using Facebook or any platform that requires you to display your real name or personal information to strangers.
If you’re looking for support on other platforms, don’t use your real name. Using your real name makes it easy for predators and unstable people to find your online footprint and invade your personal life.
Some people are more interested in complaining.
You’ll find that some people are just there to chronically complain.
Now, it’s reasonable to talk about your problems more than once. You may need additional perspectives or want to talk about a change in the situation, or may you just need more support. There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, some people steal the spotlight constantly. They will interject their problems into every discussion and derail it to make the conversation about themselves.
Then you have the people who aren’t interested in solutions, but empathy may need to be extended here. Because, frankly, there isn’t always a solution.
Those folks come to support groups because they’re dealing with a chronic problem that may not ever get better. They need that regular support to stay in the game and keep struggling to survive.
Others aren’t there to vent. They’re only there to complain. They never try to work on the problem, don’t act on advice, and steal the spotlight excessively.
Excessively is the keyword.
If you join an online community, try not to let your venting turn into complaining: give other people the spotlight, actively listen, and participate.
5. Hotlines and warmlines.
Hotlines are kind of self-explanatory.
You’re having a problem, you’re suicidal, and people tell you to call the suicide hotline, or you may already know to call a hotline to get help.
But there are some things you should know about the suicide hotline.
It’s not just a suicide hotline.
It’s actually a crisis hotline. If you’re going through a crisis, you can call 988 in the U.S. and your call will be routed to a local-ish crisis center.
People call the crisis line for all kinds of reasons: the electricity is about to get turned off, they don’t have food, or they’re trying to get out of a domestic violence situation.
Crisis lines have access to local information and resources that might be able to help you.
Then there are Warmlines, which are not so well-known.
Crisis lines are aimed at dealing with crises. Obvious, right? A warmline is there more for support than a crisis. They are there if you need a friend to talk to and just don’t have one.
Not every place has warmlines. They are still a fairly modern creation. But, if you have them locally, they can be a great option for support.
6. Religious or spiritual leaders.
Religious or spiritual leaders can provide guidance in a time of need.
They’ve often listened to and helped many people with their problems. They can be a wonderful source of information and direction.
However, they can be really hit-or-miss; more so than anything else on this list.
Because there’s basically no oversight or repercussions to what they tell you.
If you mess around in a support group, you’ll get kicked out. If you act like a jerk in an online community, you may get banned. Professional therapists are licensed and held to an ethical standard that is enforced. They can lose their license if they act unethically.
Not so with religious leaders.
So, are all religious or spiritual leaders bad?
Absolutely not, but religious leaders gave us such things as: “pray the gay away,” conversion camps to turn gay teenagers straight, praying to end suicidal feelings or deal with mental illness, and a whole lot of other abuses that you’ve probably seen all over the news in recent years.
Granted, any organization with people involved is likely going to have some shadiness to it because people can be shady.
The difference is accountability. And there is little accountability for religious or spiritual leaders.
They can be a good option if you’re looking for direction and meaning, or just need an ear.
But anything else, and you’ll want to speak to a licensed professional about it.
7. Therapists and counselors.
Therapists and counselors are educated, trained, and licensed to provide support for several of life’s difficulties ranging from mental illness to ‘just’ having problems.
Talking to a mental health professional is likely to be your best option, if it is an option, which it may not be for some people due to a lack of availability or cost.
The other benefit of turning to a mental health professional rather than friends or family is the lack of “emotional debt.”
In a healthy relationship, talking to a friend is going to create some emotional debt where the expectation may be that you’ll listen to them if they listen to you.
But what if you don’t have the emotional energy for that? What if you’re so deep into your own problems that you just can’t provide meaningful support in return?
Well, you don’t have that issue with a therapist. You’re paying them to listen. There’s no emotional debt there. There is no expectation that you will provide emotional support to your counselor.
That’s one less thing you need to worry about in your relationships because not fulfilling that unspoken emotional contract is a really good way to break that relationship.
And that’s not what anyone wants.
If you think therapy might work for you, BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
If you’re having problems and you’re not sure where to turn, this list should point you in the right direction.
Keep in mind that it can be challenging to find meaningful support at times.
You may not click with a counselor, your friend may prove to be not all that good of a listener, or the community you turned to may end up being trash.
That’s okay. There are other avenues available. The important thing is that you try until you find one that works, so you can access support when you need it.
You may also like:
- 14 Reasons You Can’t Talk About Your Problems, According To Psychology
- 9 Bad Things That Happen When You Don’t Talk About Your Problems