The Stigma of Asking For Help

February 4, 2021
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S

Lisa Newburger, a master's level social worker supervisor, helps audiences find humor in talking about tough topics. Her "in-your-face" style of presentations and writing will make you smile or just shock you into taking some action. Either way, she is very effective at empowering others to reach their goals and feel better about themselves. Her entertaining workshops are available for national and international audiences. Writing for the dental industry since 2010, she uses an alterego (Diana Directive) to illustrate her points in a sarcastic but effective way. Presentations can be scheduled by contacting Lisa at www.discussdirectives.com/dental.html.

We all need a hand at times and it’s important to seek help and to realize you’re not alone during difficult times.

Our world has been turned upside down. We have a worldwide pandemic, political unrest, racism, antisemitism, unemployment, and numerous other critical issues to deal with daily. Some of us have children at home trying to learn virtually. Others must work outside the home and are afraid of the virus being transmitted in the workplace. The list goes on and on. The result is that mental health issues are climbing rapidly. I am referring to substance abuse/addiction, domestic violence, child abuse, and suicide. These are serious problems during frightening times. The question is what can you do about it?

We need to come together and find a way to get through this nightmare together. This means going back to basics. Look at the people who are in your life. Are they causing you grief? Are they a calming force in your life? Identify those who are your healthy supporters. You may need them at some point.

Being transparent, I must share that asking for help was not how I was raised. It was viewed as a sign of weakness. The motto was, “You want people to owe you, but you never collect.” We had to be self-sufficient. Asking for help beyond my family…just was not an option. How were you raised? What happens when you need help? Are you following old messages taught to you as a child? Or do you realize it is ok to ask for help when you are stressed and overwhelmed?

If you are at work and do not remember how to do something, do you ask for help? Most will. There will be those who surge forward and do the best they can without knowing what they are doing. Then, if they really screw up, they may ask for help or deny that they did anything wrong. That is not the smartest approach to take.

What is so hard about asking, “Can you help me?” With the pandemic, 68% of employees feel that asking for help for mental health resources could affect their job security, according to research conducted by Marsh & McLennan (https://www.mmc.com/insights/publications/2020/march/employee-concerns-about-covid-19.html.) That percentage is stunning to me. Employees are scared that requesting help will impact how their boss views them. The result is that employees are not reaching out to ask for help. We know that people are in trouble, but we cannot always identify who they are until it is too late.

I received a letter from a reader last week that has kept me up the past several nights. She is in trouble as she is overwhelmed. Between COVID, unemployment as a contractual dental hygienist in a European country, not having a support system, and believing that she will soon be homeless, it is all rather terrifying. I hope that she reads this article and reaches out to someone… anyone. My message to her is…you are not alone. There are many people struggling. At times there is a success and at times, we feel that everything is falling apart. But what is most important is to not give up hope. We are closer to eradicating COVID-19 than we were in 2020. There will be a time down the road when life will return to some semblance of normalcy. Granted the new normal is not going to look like the way it was in the past. But life will get better.

If this reader sees this, do one thing. Please tell someone what is going on in. Call your doctor, a friend, a teacher, a suicide prevention hotline, or a clergyperson. Take a chance that others can help you even when you do not feel there is any way out. Things…will…get…better. There are others who can help you get through this nightmare. Just reach out.

Depression and anxiety issues have skyrocketed across the board in this challenging time. We all need to get involved when we see something that concerns us. If you see a colleague in bad shape, talk to them. Ask questions. Let them know that you are concerned. You may not be a mental health professional, but you are a human being. Encourage them to get some help. Help them to make the connections as they may be too depressed or anxious to do so. If you think they might be suicidal, ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves. You will not put the idea in their head. Instead, you might be saving their life.

Last month, I was quite ill for 4 weeks. When I went to the doctor, I was given a list of instructions to get a COVID test and get a chest x-ray. I was so sick and overwhelmed. I could not even figure out how to schedule a test. I started calling all my family to see who was at a computer and could help me. Everyone was tied up. I reached out to several friends. One of them pulled out her laptop and scheduled the appointment as I was too ill to think straight. My question to you is this. How is that any different than telling someone that you are depressed and overwhelmed? The difference is simple…stigma. Our society has trained us to think differently if it is a physical illness versus a mental health issue. We need to get over that. The only way to do so is through our actions. Do not be afraid to get involved. And do not be afraid to ask for help. The person who helped me was not in my closest circle. She was the 10th person I called that day, yet I will always be so grateful that she helped me when I could not take care of myself. Look around. If you are struggling, reach out. You are not alone. You just need to ask for help. We can truly help each other. After all, it does take a village.

Email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com and share your feelings on asking for help when you are struggling with depression, anxiety, and fear. Together, we will get through this.