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From Stigma to Strength: Normalizing asking for Help

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Oftentimes when a friend or loved one reaches out to us in their moments of struggle, feeling overwhelmed, and unsure how to cope, we offer them empathy, support, and a listening ear.

However, when it comes to our struggles, a lot of us hesitate to ask for help. We fear being judged, misunderstood, rejected, or labelled as weak. There is also a deep sense of shame that is attached to asking for help. This shame can be rooted in societal expectations or personal beliefs that we should be able to handle everything on our own.

Suicide is considered to be the 10th biggest cause of death worldwide. According to the WHO, more than 7,00,000 lives are lost to suicide every year. While the discussions about mental health and suicide have gained momentum, a persistent stigma still surrounds asking for help. Taking into consideration the current scenario of increasing suicide numbers in Rajasthan’s coaching hub, Kota, and the installation of an ‘anti-suicide device’ on ceiling fans to stop student deaths - again adds to the stigma. Even though there is an increase in the dialogue around suicide, there is a crucial missing piece in recognizing the existence of widespread mental health concerns that individuals face and the need for them to feel comfortable seeking assistance.

A lot of times, even when individuals acknowledge their need for help and wish to reach out, they may find it difficult or even uncertain about how to do so. People might struggle to identify safe spaces and supportive resources due to the prevailing stigma attached to seeking help. The perception that experiencing suicidal thoughts represents weakness or immorality only reinforces this stigma. This further leads to the shaming of individuals in distress, building a culture of silence surrounding this issue. This silence, in turn, deepens feelings of isolation and creates barriers that limit access to the support and care that individuals desperately need.

The current times require us to not only normalise conversations about suicide but also shift the focus to normalising the act of asking for help in times of need. Acknowledging and reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but instead is a sign of strength. Even though asking for help can be an immensely challenging experience as it might involve feelings of vulnerability and fear of judgement, it allows us to break the isolation.

Asking for help can look like this -

  • Recognizing the need for help - Asking for help starts with acknowledging the vulnerability which can be quite frightening and even uncomfortable. However, it is a courageous step towards getting help.

  • Breaking isolation - Even though the process of asking for help can come with feelings of fear and shame it is important to reach out to someone who you trust and feel comfortable with. This could be a family member or a close friend.

  • Seek professional help - While reaching out to a close one is an important step, it is also crucial to consult a mental health professional who is trained in dealing with such concerns.

  • Reaching out to crisis helplines - When emotions are too overwhelming, reaching out to suicide prevention helplines can be extremely helpful, especially because counsellors might not always be available or accessible.

Normalising asking for help is a shared responsibility. By addressing the stigmas, we can create a society where individuals feel seen, heard, supported, and safe during their difficult moments. After all, suicide awareness is not limited to one week of the year. Living in an epidemic of this kind, all days are suicide prevention days.

Here are a few crisis helplines that can be reached out to -

  • AASRA: 91-9820466726 (24X7 Helpline)

  • Icall: 9152987821 (10 am - 8 pm, Monday to Saturday)

  • MannTalks: 8686139139 (9 am - 8 pm, Monday to Saturday)

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