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Reach Out For Support

When you're feeling overwhelmed, talking it out and connecting with someone who is there to support you can be an important strategy for getting through tough times. Reaching out to a friend, family member, family doctor, counsellor, or helpline to talk about how you're feeling can provide you with support to process emotions, find new ways of coping, and even access additional care if needed.

It takes self-awareness and courage to ask for help, and it's normal to feel nervous - even if you've reached out before. Sometimes, you might notice that there are things getting in the way of feeling like you can or should seek support, such as concerns about stigma or cost, not knowing what to expect, or even just not knowing how to start the conversation.

Outstretched hand

It's okay if you're feeling unsure. Let's explore some of the common barriers that people may experience when considering whether or not they want to seek professional support...

Trying to navigate your way to the resources that will best support you can feel daunting. We've got you covered! Check out our Mental Health & Wellness Resource Guide for supports on campus and in the community, including 24/7 helplines. No matter the time of day or night, there will always be someone there to listen whenever you're feeling ready to talk.

When you reach out to a professional support service like the Student Counselling Centre, MySSP, or Good2Talk, the information that you share with your counsellor is confidential within the limits of the law. Your counsellor is there to listen to anything that's on your mind, help you process your emotions and experiences, and work with you to explore options for coping and healing.

Depending on the organization you reach out to, each service is run somewhat differently (e.g., some services are anonymous while others request your name and contact information, some services offer single session support while others provide ongoing counselling, etc.), but regardless of where you reach out to, you can expect to be met by a professional who cares, who is interested in what you have to say, who honours your pain and believes in your ablity to cope, and who is there to make sure you feel supported and have the resources that you need.

At the Student Counselling Centre, we have a team of caring and compassionate professionals who are here for you. Want to learn more about what to expect if you reach out to us? Check out our website!

This is normal, especially if you're feeling overwhelmed or if you've been hurting for a long time. Here are some different approaches to consider:

► Start where you are: You might say something like:

  • I'm not sure how to explain what's happening
  • I'm struggling to put how I'm feeling into words
  • I don't know how to start
  • I've never reached out to this service before - can you please tell me more about what to expect?
  • It's hard for me to open up but I really need to talk
  • I'm nervous about calling/coming in today

► Open with a general statement: This might sound like:

  • I'm feeling really...
  • I'm having a hard time coping with...
  • It feels like everything is falling apart
  • I haven't been feeling like myself lately
  • I'm in crisis

► Be specific: Tell the counsellor what you're dealing with that led you to reach out:

  • I'm feeling worried about the conflict in my family
  • My partner and I broke up
  • I'm falling behind in school
  • I'm having a hard time adjusting to university
  • I'm struggling with depression
  • I'm having a panic attack
  • I've lost someone I love
  • I've been thinking about self-injury
  • I'm experiencing thoughts of suicide

► Tell them what you need: Let them know what they can do to help you:

  • I need someone to listen and validate my emotions
  • I need someone to help me problem solve
  • I need help figuring out ways to cope
  • I need to process what I'm feeling right now

You get to decide the approach that feels most comfortable for you, and it may be one that isn't on this list. Once you get the conversation started, your counsellor will then be able to help you explore what you're feeling, what you need, and ways to cope.

This is also normal and it makes sense! The thought of sharing things that are painful, personal, and emotional can feel intimidating and vulnerable, especially if you don't yet know the person you're reaching out to. That's why we emphasize that reaching out for support is strong, courageous and resilient... because it truly is. Picking up the phone to call a helpline or walking in the door for counselling can be one of the hardest and bravest things a student will do while in university. Here are some tips that might help:

► Name it: Notice what emotions or concerns are getting in the way of you reaching out.

► Validate it: Meet those emotions and concerns with kindness and acknowledge that reaching out for support can be hard.

► Normalize it: Feeling nervous makes sense. Many people feel unsure at first!

► Work with it: What do you think might help make that first step even just a little easier? Learning more about the service through their website? Reading therapist profiles where available so you know who you might be reaching out to? Asking someone you trust to help you make the call or set up an appointment? Calling to ask questions about what to expect before you decide you are going to use the service? Sometimes taking small steps can help you pave the path to the help you need.

► Go for it. That feeling of worry or uncertainty may not entirely go away before you reach out, and that's okay. If you're thinking that it might be time to seek support, that's an indicator that it is. Remember that you are in control and get to decide what help looks like for you. 

Although there have been many positive changes over the last several years, we live in a society where mental health stigma is unfortunately still present. It makes sense that you might be worried about the perceptions of others. Some students are concerned that if they seek support on campus, their professors or parents will find out, it will go on their transcript, or that it will affect their ability to study in Canada if coming from another country, even though this isn't the case. The Student Counselling Centre follows the same laws around confidentiality as all other healthcare providers, on or off campus. To learn more about how our staff protect your confidentiality, visit our Privacy and Confidentiality webpage.

In some cultures, talking about mental health is not widely normalized or accepted, and this can make it tough to reach out or even to know when you should. Sometimes it can help to speak with someone who knows your culture or even speaks your language. MySSP is a great resource for this, as they have counsellors available 24/7 who speak over 35+ different languages and come from many different cultural backgrounds and identities. You can call in and request to speak with someone whose identity most aligns with yours. 

Everyone is on their own journey, with unique stories of pain, loss, and overcoming. Your story is valid and your pain matters, and no one is more or less deserving of support. Healing happens in spaces of connection and care. Students access counselling for a wide range of reasons, including the reasons that may be leading you to consider counselling as an option right now. You don't need to be in crisis to ask for help. We want you to know that we're here for you and that what you're experiencing matters to us. Please reach out if you need to.

Counsellors go through extensive training to be able to provide support to individuals experiencing a wide range of concerns. They have the knowledge and skills necessary to create a space where all of you is welcome and allowed. Your emotions are valid and make sense given what you have lived through, and you deserve to feel seen, understood, and supported. You don't have to face this pain alone.

We grow up immersed in societal beliefs and values that structure how we relate to ourselves and our emotions, pain, coping, and resilience. Many of these beliefs are restrictive and prevent us from feeling comfortable with showing emotion or even knowing how to engage with the rich emotional inner life that comes with being human. We often hear messages from the time that we are very young to just "be strong", "suck it up", "get over it", and "move on."

These messages are harmful and can get in the way of processing how we're feeling, interfere with our ability to cope with difficult experiences, and stop us from reaching out for support. Emotions are not good nor bad - they are simply signals that our bodies send out to provide us with information about how our thoughts, experiences and environments are impacting us and to help us understand our needs.

If you're finding that the idea of showing emotion or reaching out for support leaves you feeling self-conscious or ashamed, consider that this might be the result of internalized societal messages and not a reflection of your strength, worth, or who you are as a person. Allowing yourself time and space to experience your emotions and process how you're feeling is an important part of taking care of your overall well-being. Reaching out for support is one of the strongest things anyone can do.

It makes sense if you're feeling hesitant to reach out because you're concerned about having to talk about painful experiences or emotions. Sometimes it can seem easier to bottle everything up and not think about it. But pain has a way of sticking around when it's not given the time and space to heal and it tends to show itself in other ways, such as feeling disconnected and numb or feeling increased irritablity and anger. If you've experienced something traumatic, it's understandable that you may not be feeling ready to talk about it - trauma memories and emotions can feel overwhelming and distressing. 

It's important to know that when you reach out for support, you get to decide what you want to share and when. Sometimes it can be helpful to let your counsellor know if there are things you're not ready to talk about yet or that you've been through something painful but aren't ready to share, so that they are aware of how they can best support you in your work together. It's okay to take it slow and to allow yourself to be where you are at in your healing.

Although some counselling and support services are fee-for-service, all of the resources that we include in our Mental Health & Wellness Resource Guide are completely free and accessible to you as a student. If you are looking for private counselling in the community, you might have coverage for several sessions through your Health & Dental benefits plan.