“I am aware that I struggle with anxiety and depression, but I can’t bring myself to talk to a professional about it. I know that talking to someone will help me. How do I get over that fear?”

—Sarah*, Denton, Texas

You’re not unusual in feeling stuck. About one in four people in the US struggle with an emotional health condition at some point in their lives, and only about half of them seek treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Maybe your mind is telling you that seeking professional help is a sign of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Seeking help when we have an issue is a sign of strength and courage. If you have a toothache and you go to the dentist, are you weak because you didn’t tough it out? What if you break your leg? These are silly questions, but they prove a point.

Are you concerned about confidentiality? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that ensures the privacy of an individual’s protected health information. Counselors and therapists are ethically and legally required to preserve your confidentiality, unless there is evidence of child abuse or a serious threat to your health or safety.

Once you seek help, you may find that the professional gives you the assistance you need and you feel better. In some cases, it may take more time, but you will have ongoing support and knowledgeable care. You can also feel empowered through learning more about anxiety and depression.

What should you know about choosing a professional?
  1. You can try talking to your school counselor first. If that’s not an option that works for you, ask your parent about setting up an appointment for you with a counselor or therapist. A counselor or therapist can help you determine the parameters of your emotional health condition through diagnosis and treatment. This will also be a safe space for you to discuss your concerns.
  2. Be sure that you feel comfortable with the therapist you choose. This may take a couple of sessions. If it doesn’t seem like the right fit, you can switch.
  3. Be patient with yourself. Even if it may not seem like things can change, they often do with time.
  4. When you work with someone, be honest and open. They are not there to judge you. They want to help, but can only do so based on what you tell them. If you give them only a partial picture of what’s going on, you will only get partial help.

Additional content from Peter Welch, MA

*Name changed