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How do I ask an adult for help?

Most of us feel overwhelmed or like we can’t cope with things at least once in our lives, and many of us feel like that a lot more often.

An young person asking for help from an adult

Being a victim of crime can be one of those times when you need to be able to talk to someone, and you shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Many of us don’t like to ask for help; we may be worried about what people will think, worried the person we talk to will tell other people, or scared the person will laugh at us. Yet most of us would help our friends and family, so why would they feel any differently towards us?

Who can I talk to?

It’s important to choose the right person to talk to. It should be an adult you feel safe and comfortable with, so it might be someone who has helped you before. There might also be people you don't want to talk to, particularly if they know the person responsible for the crime that has affected you. Among the people you could ask for help are:

  • your parent or carer
  • another member of your family
  • a teacher
  • your doctor
  • a friend's parent or carer
  • a school nurse or support worker
  • a Victim Support supporter
  • a coach or leader of an activity group
  • a counsellor
  • a religious leader

Remember, however difficult it is you will probably feel better just for talking about your feelings, and it is important that you are not struggling on your own to cope with the effects of a crime. People who care about you will want to help you.

If you are not comfortable asking someone you know, you can always ask for help from a professional – such as a doctor, teacher or counsellor – or someone with specialist training in helping young victims of crime, such as a Victim Support supporter. 

When’s a good time to ask, and how do I start the conversation?

Make sure you’re ready to talk about what’s happened before you ask for help. Plan or prepare what you want to say, as being ready can help you feel less nervous and make the conversation go more smoothly. Try to think of a few examples of the way you are feeling, and how the crime has affected you, as this can help the adult understand your situation better.

Try to find a time when the person you want to talk to isn't busy or about to go and do something, so they can stay and talk with you rather than having to rush off somewhere. For example, it is better to approach a teacher after a lesson, rather than just before a lesson when other students are due to arrive soon or the teacher has to go quickly to another classroom. Also, think about where you want to talk – it should be somewhere you feel comfortable, but also where you can talk in private or without being overheard.

The best way to start the conversation is by being honest. For example, if you say “I want to tell you something but I don’t know how …” an adult should understand that you are about to say something important, and that it’s not an easy thing for you to do. If you are finding it really difficult, you could say that you have a friend who needs help with a problem. It can make things easier at first if you pretend you are talking about a friend rather than yourself; if the adult listens well and is supportive, you could then tell them that you are actually talking about yourself.

Top tips for asking for help:

  • Think about the outcome that you want from the conversation. Do you simply want to tell someone how you feel, or do you want more practical or emotional support? Be clear what you want to achieve from the discussion.
  • Write things down before you ask for help, in case you forget exactly what you want to say.
  • If it makes you feel more comfortable, take someone with you – maybe a close friend who you trust – when you go to talk to the adult. You may want to practise or rehearse what you want to say with your friend first.
  • If you want everything to be kept private, ask the person you talk to about confidentiality at the start of the conversation. If you are talking to a parent, family member or another adult who is not in a ‘professional’ role, you will have to trust them to keep what you tell them private. If you are talking to a ‘professional’ person such as a teacher or doctor, they may have to follow particular guidelines about confidentiality or privacy, particularly if they are worried that you are at risk of being hurt or becoming a victim again, but they should be able to explain these rules to you.
  • Be open to suggestions, and explain you want someone to work with you to help you – you don’t want them to take over and make all the decisions for you.
  • Remember that the adult might not know anything about the problem until you tell them, so they might be surprised, or they might not fully understand what you’re going through straight away. That doesn’t mean they don’t care, or can’t help, but it may mean they need to talk to you again, in more detail, before they can really help you.
  • You can find more tips and advice on how to ask for help from an adult on the ChildLine and Young Minds websites.

What if I can’t speak to someone face-to-face?

Don’t worry, there are lots of organisations that can offer you support over the phone, email or live chat, as well as counsellors, supporters and people in your same position who you can talk to through online forums and message boards. These include ChildLineThe Mix; you can find a full list of these and other organisations on the Young Minds website.

You may also know an adult who you want to ask for help, but you are finding it hard to talk to them face-to-face. You could try writing them a letter, or sending them an email explaining what’s happened and how you are feeling. However, please remember, sharing a problem in writing means there will be a record of what you've said, so it’s important to keep it private. Sending an email is only between you and the other person, but social networks can be more public.

Talking to other people about what has happened

Once you have started talking to an adult who can help you to cope with being a victim of crime, you may decide you want to start talking to other people about what has happened too. It’s okay to let people know how you feel, but it would be best to start with the people you trust most.

How much you tell people is up to you – you are in control, so don’t feel pressured into talking about more than you want to. The first reaction you get may not always be what you expect. For example, your family or friends may not understand why you couldn’t speak to them before, or they may decide to ignore what’s happened because they are worried that talking about things may upset you. Equally, some days you may feel like talking about what’s happened, other days you may not. The main thing is that what you say and who you say it to is your decision, and once you’ve shared your problem it should make things easier to cope with.

Unsure which crime has affected you?

Are you thinking about reporting?