Asking an adult for help

If you have a problem you can’t fix on your own, it’s a good idea to ask an adult you trust for help. This page is all about helping you find the right person to ask and giving you ways to start a difficult conversation.  

How can talking to an adult help?

Someone else can often help you see your problem differently. They could give you new ideas on how to cope with things. They might have been through something similar themselves. They might know exactly what to do. Or they might know who else can help you.

Putting things into words often helps. Sometimes it’s just good to say what’s on your mind. Talking to someone could make you feel like you don’t have to deal with it on your own. 

Top tips to remember:

  • choose someone you feel safe with
  • plan what you want to say
  • make sure it’s a good time to talk and that they aren't distracted 
  • you have control over how much you tell someone - you don’t have to say everything if you don’t want to
  • if you’re not sure if they'll keep what you have said to themselves, you can ask them before you say anything.

finding the right adult to talk to

If you want to ask an adult for help, make sure it’s someone you trust and feel safe with. They might have helped you with something before. Talking to a counsellor can help you work out who that trusted person could be for you. It might be a:

  • parent, carer
  • different family member
  • friend’s parent
  • teacher
  • doctor
  • school nurse or a school counsellor
  • neighbour
  • sports coach
  • religious leader.


ways to feel confident


Planning what you want to say can really help you feel ready to start talking. Preparation means you know what you want to say and you feel less nervous about saying it.

Do you want to tell them everything, or just some of it? Think of a few examples of the problem you're having. This can help them understand the situation.

Explain how you feel. This can also help the adult understand.


Go over what you want to say. Practise out loud in front of a mirror. Or just say the words in your head.

Try to think of how the conversation with the adult will sound and where you would have it. This can help you feel more confident about it. You could write down what you want to say to help you remember.

Try our tips for being assertive and building confidence.

Find the right time to talk

You should ask for help when you feel ready and after you’ve thought about what you want to say.

Try to find a time when the adult won’t be too busy or about to rush off somewhere. For example, if you want to tell a teacher, make sure it’s after a lesson when they'll be free to listen properly.

Or if you're going to tell a parent, try not to do it when they're doing something like cooking. 

How to start a conversation

Try these conversation starters:

  • “I want to tell you something but I don’t know how.”
  • “This is hard for me to say, but I have something important to tell you.”
  • “I need some advice on something I’m stressed about.”

Or you could say that you’re asking for advice for a friend. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend you aren’t talking about yourself. If the adult is supportive, you could tell them that you're really talking about yourself.

Talk about other stuff

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to bring up a difficult issue. So you could do it by talking about something else that mentions the issue you want to talk about. It could be anything, like Facebook or TV or a book. Or even something at school.

Young people have told us:

  • “I found it hard to tell my dad I have anorexia, so I said: ‘What do you think about that person on Hollyoaks who is anorexic?’”
  • “It was too difficult to say to my grandma that my mum hits me, so I said: ‘Today at school we talked about what domestic violence is.”
  • “I first told my mum that I feel low all the time by asking her if she had seen a show on TV about depression.” 

Will they keep what I’ve said private?

Different professionals (like doctors and teachers) have different rules about keeping something they’ve been told private or confidential. It also depends on what you tell them. Sometimes it's down to their own personal decision.

If they’re worried about your safety, some adults have to tell someone else. This is so they can help you in the best way.

If you’re worried about confidentiality, you can ask them about it before you tell them anything. Most professionals have a responsibility to tell you their policy. 

Don't want to talk face-to-face?

Talking to someone about a problem you’re having can be scary. Doing it in person can feel especially worrying. That’s natural. You can do it in writing, if this is easier. You could write an email, letter or text message. 

But remember that writing something means there's a record of what you’ve said. So it’s important to keep it private. For example, an email is just between you and the person but social networks can be more public.

You could also draw a picture. Drawing can be a good way to explain what you’re going through.

Doc Ready also has advice to help you prepare to speak to a doctor about your mental health.