What can help more adolescents reach out for MH care?

clock 10 Min Read

Brencia Daphne

June 17,2021

These are some of the most common responses we hear when someone is asked to seek therapy,

  • Therapy does not work.
  • Therapy is not for me–it is for people with severe mental health issues. I am not that messed up.
  • Talking to some stranger about my problems will not help me.
  • I can fix the problem myself. I will be fine.
  • I can fix the problem myself. I will be fine.
  • I don't need therapy; I have my friends.

Mental health as a concept is still budding in India. Although the pandemic has brought mental health to the limelight as people share posts like "Seek help if needed", " Talk to us, we are here" was more of a trend for a particular time. Yes, it did help in making people aware of mental health issues, but this happened more superficially. There is still a stigma surrounding mental health and seeking help regarding it.

We see that many educational institutions are employing counsellors in their setting, but how far are they able to impact the students in seeking out help is the main question? One counsellor is appointed for an institution consisting of 5000 students, and sometimes because of certain institution rules, counsellors are not able to provide much help to the students and are just stuck to evaluate the attendance of the students.

What one needs to understand with therapy is that it's okay to feel anxious about meeting your therapist for the first time. As counselors, we do believe that the client themselves can figure out the problems, but it's just that if you are feeling stuck, we provide help in facilitating to help you reach your potential. It is crucial to know that therapy is a non-judgmental space where everything said will be kept confidential. Having an open mind regarding therapy can help you gain some perspective. What is important here to realize is that there are professionals trained in the area for years who can help you more than a friend can.

MAIN DISCLAIMER: THERAPY IS NOT ONLY FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS. Having a psychological disorder is not the only criteria to engage in therapy. Therapy can also be a safe space to express oneself, vent out, help with day-to-day emotional or behavioural troubles and a space where you can work on yourself to grow as an individual. If one approaches mental health care issues in a preventive approach, you will be in a much better position to address your issues before they become bigger problems. There are many ways one can change their behaviors or thoughts, but therapy is by far the quickest and safest way to do it. Research says that if you leave your mental health concerns unaddressed for a long time, the recovery will also take longer. Therapy is for everybody and can be accessed at any point in one's life, ranging from children to older people. In this modern scientific age, we can find many pieces of research that validate the effectiveness of therapy. Therapy does not just include talking; there are various modes of therapy like art, drama, music and storytelling. Therapy can be fun too!!

Here are few reasons why someone can seek therapy: when one is in distress, to recover from loss or grief, to improve their social skills and communication skills, to address an unhealthy coping nature of oneself, to become more self-aware, identity crisis, stuck in negative spiral and thoughts, to work on self-doubt, to cope with stress, to cope with a change of any kind, you are not feeling like yourself, mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, phobias, addiction, PTSD, ADHD or you just want to talk to someone. There are many other reasons individuals seek therapy. No issue is too trivial that cannot be addressed in a therapeutic session.

If you are sick, you go to the general doctor immediately and seek treatment so that it does not affect your functioning in day-to-day activities; it's the same with therapy. Suppose you are facing mental health issues, why wait for it to get severe and only then seek help. Another way to look at therapy is to relate it to going to the gym. One does not have to necessarily be suffering from bodyweight issues to go to the gym; many people go to the gym to stay fit too. That is also precisely how therapy works. It is like a gym for your mind so that you stay fit. Just because mental health problems are not visible to the naked eye does not mean it's not as important to work on them. A person is considered healthy not just based on physical aspects but also their mental aspects.

You must educate yourself about mental health from credible sources and pass on this information to others. This is the first step in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. Even if you do not need therapy, it might help another friend you may know who needs help, and you can direct them towards suitable sources. Try to attend webinars or workshops relating to mental health with an open mind. Follow mental health advocates, changemakers, psychological associations and mental health setups on your social media platform to stay updated.

Signs you might be struggling with your mental health:

  • Waking up feeling anxious and dreading the day
  • Difficulties in focusing on basic tasks
  • Mood swings that occur unexpectedly and frequently
  • Increased dependency on alcohol, drugs, social media etc\
  • Difficulty with sleep, either too little or too much
  • A feeling of numbness that does not leave
  • Disinterest in the activities that you used to enjoy before
  • Feeling like you are surviving, not living
  • Low energy and motivation levels
  • Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger that are sharply out of character and could indicate psychological, drug, or sexual problems.

If you find yourself confused about what you are feeling or feeling lost or missing your older self, approach a person you trust and know that it is a safe space for you and start a conversation. Initiate it by saying things like, "Hey can I talk to you something, privately? I have been struggling with this, and I don't know with whom to talk to about this". It can be a loved one, a favourite teacher, school counsellor, your sibling or your favourite aunt and uncle. Sometimes reaching out to your friend can also be beneficial, but there is a downside to this, as your peer may also have limited knowledge about what you are going through or have the same amount of knowledge about it as you do.

Adolescence is a time where an individual is coming out of their "child" role and exploring themselves as to who they are in the real world. Hence, many changes can be seen, like they are more irritable, rebellious, making risky decisions, lashing out and moody. It might be difficult to differentiate between normal teenage behaviours and signs of mental health issues. Also, sometimes dealing with these new changes can become overwhelming, and one can show signs of mental health distress.

1. Change in appearance

It is normal for teenagers to experiment and change their looks like dyeing their hair, getting tattoos, following the latest trends to feel accepted among their peers. The cause for concern is when there are changes in eating/sleeping patterns, and sustained shifts in fundamental behaviour could be cause for worry. Although staying up late and working late is typical behaviour among teenagers.

2. Isolation from family

Typically, teenagers tend to spend more time with peers than family and have constant fights with the family. It can be a concern when they are cutting off from friends. The size of a teen's friend circle is less concerning than if a teen is withdrawing from it. This could be a sign of struggle. Not attending school or a decline in academic performance. Missing class once in a while might be nothing more than a typical teen rebellion. But regularly missing classes or a sudden/surprising decline in grades or involvement is a red flag of something greater.

3. Mood swings

It is quite common to see teenagers with extreme mood swings behaviour, and it is unpredictable. Some kids spend most of their time at home behind a closed door. As long as this isn't accompanied by any other causes for concern, it's normal behaviour. Adolescents are sensitive, self-conscious and still learning to master the art of coping with life's disappointments, big or small.

The source of concern arises when the individual shows physically abusive and destructive behaviours. Self-harm and physical symptoms like regular (and physiologically inexplicable) stomach, head or backaches when facing situations are also causing concern.

4. Impulsivity

The prefrontal cortex part of the brain that is responsible for judgment, insight and impulse control – is still developing in teens, which means they often act and speak without thinking. The cause for concern is when they involve in seriously reckless behaviours like binge drinking, underage driving, etc. If a person starts taking severe risks that threaten their or others' safety, it is essential to seek help.

It is important to know that when it is getting difficult to judge if the behaviours are of concern or not, one can consult a mental health professional. We might get reassurance that this is a normal phase, or the required help can be given to the individual.

If therapy is not accessible to you due to certain factors, adolescents can attend peer support groups to help address their issues. You never know how helpful it might be. Finding the right therapist is one of the crucial tasks here. The client and the therapist relationship should be like lock and key. Some may not find their right match the first time itself, but it is important to keep looking. The effort is worth it. Be sure to check your therapist's credentials; they should have a Master's degree or a Doctoral degree. The use of other mental health care apps like headspace and calm can also be beneficial. There are certified therapists at Heart it out who can help you in realizing your authentic selves. Do feel free to contact us for further information.

According to the mental health act. 2017, these are some of the things one needs to be aware of

  • You have the right to access mental health care and treatment without discrimination based on gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, caste, social or political beliefs, class, disability or any other basis.
  • Every insurer shall make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for the treatment of physical illness. So have a conversation with your insurer as to what can be covered under your health insurance policy.
  • Mental health professionals will not be able to share anything about your treatment with anyone, including your family members. This is breached only in certain situations when there is a threat to the life of others or oneself.

Don't hesitate to reach out for help by trivializing your issues. Your feelings and thoughts are valid and need to be heard and addressed even if others don't think so. Sometimes our closest friends or beloved family members may find it hard to understand your mental health concerns. Do not be discouraged by this; your struggles are valid. Sometimes things don't just work out on their own; effort needs to be put from your side too to work out the problem. It's okay to feel not okay.

Several platforms provide free counselling, which can be used if affordability is the problem.

1. ICALL ( Operated by TISS ) - 022-25521111 and 9152987821

(10 am to 10 pm: Monday to Saturday )


2. ‘KIRAN’ (1800-599-0019)

a 24×7 toll-free mental health rehabilitation helpline

3. Aasra Helpline Number: +91 98204 66726

a 24x7 dedicated free helpline number in Hindi and English.

4. The Fortis 24x7 Stress Helpline number +9183768 04102

In English as well as regional Indian languages, the hospital will be there to help out. You can write to them at Helpline

5. Parivarthan Helpline Number: +91 76766 02602

The helpline number is open from 1 pm to 10 pm, Monday through Friday. Online counselling sessions are also available should one need them.Can converse in English, Kannada, and Tamil. You can email them at

6. Cooj Helpline Number: +832 2252525

They are available on call Monday through Friday between 1 pm and 7 pm. For e-counselling,one can send an email to

7. Sneha Foundation India Helpline Number: 044-24640050

Their suicide helpline number can be reached on all days between 10 am and 2 pm. PS: Once the restrictions and lockdown get lifted in Chennai, the number can be reached out 24x7. Email at

8. Vandrevala Foundation Helpline Number: +91 730 459 9836, +91 730 459 9837, and 1860 2662 345

24x7 helpline number,

one can also email them on

9. Samaritans Mumbai Helpline Numbers: +91 84229 84528, +91 84229 84529 and +91 84229 84530 One can call their helpline number between 5 pm and 8 pm all through the week or email them at They also offer a free service with a counsellor for those looking for professional help. You can connect with them Monday to Friday between 10 am and 4 pm to set up an appointment.

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