Opinion: Don’t be afraid to have the courage to ask for help


Ariel Landry

Photo credit: Ariel Landry

Andrew Lang

I used to think it was a sign of weakness to ask for help, but my experiences taught me something everyone should learn. It isn’t weakness or fear that leads someone to ask for help, but courage to accept that you need it.

Midway through my sophomore year of high school, during my Christmas break, my parents sat down as I talked to my psychiatrist. I didn’t like my psychiatrist and deliberately sought to close him out, thinking he could never help me. I chose to shut him and everyone else out.

Usually it was just me and him, but when they brought my parents in, I knew it was something different. They told me they saw me going down the same road I went down freshman year, when I had stressed myself out with school so much, I couldn’t bring myself to go at a certain point.

My mom cried, and both my parents said they thought I should go to a mental hospital to help me deal with my major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I reluctantly agreed, and off I went.

It was a powerful moment in my life, but unfortunately not a transformative one as, despite spending about two months at the hospital, I still felt like I could handle my problems on my own. Again, I chose to shut everyone out as if it would help.

My demons would come back to haunt me later on in high school. At my very lowest, I wanted to kill myself. Fortunately, I never acted on that desire, but it was there. The only people I ever told were my parents and that was only because I felt it was necessary, not for any therapeutic reason, but because I couldn’t bear going back to the school I was at. If I hadn’t felt forced, I would have shut everyone out again.

This story made me stronger in a lot of ways, and it made me weaker in some. These problems continued. I’ve still experienced them in college and ended up transferring from Syracuse University after medically withdrawing for mental health reasons. While I had gotten better and communicated more, I still shut people out from knowing everything.

These experiences taught me a lot of things. It taught me the importance of simple things like making sure you have a healthy sleep cycle, eating right and making sure you get exercise. While you may not consciously notice the benefits when you are struggling, it makes a massive difference.

I’m telling you this because I’ve met more people that struggle with anxiety, depression and a plethora of other mental health disorders than I can count. It could stem from serious traumas they’ve endured to something as simple as your mind creating more stress than a situation justifies. I see people internalize their problems and shut people out just like I did. I’m telling you this so maybe you can learn the lessons my struggles taught me earlier than I did.

In my darkest moments, I shut everyone out. I kept to myself and told myself I could handle it alone and I’m sure many of you have done the same. Take it from me, you can’t do it alone. I failed to learn that lesson countless times. If you take nothing else from this, learn how important it is to ask for help.

College is a particularly vulnerable time for people. Your old support system, your family, your friends from high school, your medical care professionals and even your pets, are often further away than they’ve ever been. It’s easier than ever for someone to justify in their mind ignoring the challenges and not seeking help.

At the same time, you are introduced to social and academic pressures that are unfamiliar because you grew accustomed to high school’s social and academic structure and the challenges it presented.

This and other factors combine into a dangerous cocktail of mental health challenges. They aren’t insurmountable though. Solving them starts with simple steps. Call your parents and tell them what’s going on. Tell your friends how you are feeling. Reach out to your health care providers. Go to the counseling center. The bottom line is, tell people. Ask them for help.

Take it from someone who’s been down that road and made that mistake countless times. Don’t be afraid to have the courage to ask for help.