An image of a life preserver in the ocean.

7 Things Crisis Counselors and Therapists Want You to Know About Reaching Out for Help

By Jessica Hicks
January 25, 2022

If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts or you think you may be at risk of causing self-harm, a variety of crisis lines and mental health resources are available to offer help and guidance. But talking to a stranger about such difficult feelings isn’t easy. In fact, you may be concerned about how the person at the other end of the line might respond—and how they can actually help. You may wonder: Can I really confide in a counselor or therapist about what I’m going through—or will they judge me for it?

If your worries or concerns are stopping you from reaching out to a mental health expert for help, or you’re simply curious about how they’re likely to respond when you open up about how you’re feeling, here are seven things crisis counselors and trauma-informed therapists want you to know.

1. You Are Not Alone

When caught in a moment of despair, it’s easy to feel like you are alone in the world—and in your feelings. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth, says Benyamin Cirlin, C.S.W., a clinical social worker and therapist who specializes in complicated grief and post-traumatic stress disorder at the Center for Loss and Renewal in New York City. Cirlin says suicidal thoughts, feelings, and impulses are not uncommon in any way, especially among those coping with loss and trauma. “You are not the first person to struggle with this issue,” says Cirlin. “We can find a way out of this—together.”

2. Suicide Is Not the Solution…

“When an individual attempts suicide, they generally describe feeling that they had exhausted all other options, and may lack awareness of connections with others that could have been a lifeline in those darkest of times,” explains Steven Lucero, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in Utah and a therapist at Brightside, a digital mental healthcare company. Lucero wants you to know that there are many other options available to you in moments when you’re feeling hopeless; chief among them, your loved ones and mental health counselors, who can help you identify new ways to cope. “Reaching out and talking to someone is an excellent first step to recovery,” says Everton Weeks, a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, a global nonprofit that provides free and confidential mental health support over text. “Connect with someone you trust and open up, talk it out, explore.”

Developing authentic connections with others is one way to get support when having suicidal thoughts or experiencing other negative emotions, Lucero adds. “As you identify new sources of meaning and hope, the pain of considering suicide is replaced with the seed of a thought that there might be unforeseen opportunities ahead,” Lucero says.

3. …But You Don’t Need to Know the Solution Right Now

While pain can feel overwhelming and hopeless, crisis counselors and trauma-informed therapists want you to know that suicide is not the answer. You don’t have to have the “answers”—there are specific steps you can take to address the pain and to cope, like seeking out professional help through therapy and psychiatry.

“As difficult as this moment is, there is a way out,” Weeks says. “It's okay if you can't see it right now, but have faith that an exit is there.” That exit is first, choosing life, and then exploring different ways to improve your mental health. From cognitive behavioral therapy and leaning on friends and family to diving into new passions and engaging in self-care practices, there are strategies that can help you heal over time.

4. There Is Hope

Thoughts of suicide can often feel all-consuming—so much so, that you may think you’ll never escape this moment or the urges you’re experiencing. But you may be able to take a step back and examine the moment in the grand scheme of life. “Across the continuum of experience, every moment is fleeting,” Lucero says. “This is both a helpful reminder to have gratitude for those moments when we are connecting with our most important values, and a comforting solace in those moments when it feels hope is lost.”

Sometimes, however, it can be too hard to take that step back and feel any positive emotions or hope at all. This can occur when depression is a factor or thoughts of suicide are recurring, for example. If you experience persistent thoughts of suicide, it’s especially important to reach out for help. A crisis counselor or therapist can help you find ways to manage difficult or intrusive thoughts and feelings with evidence-based strategies.

5. Your Counselor Is Not Frightened by Your Thoughts

When seeking help for suicidal thoughts or ideation, you may be hesitant to fully open up. What if your counselor or therapist doesn’t understand; or, perhaps even worse, what if they are sent into a state of panic when you share how you feel? Cirlin wants you to know, from a therapist’s position, why you shouldn’t worry about these things: “I am here and open to hearing all of your thoughts and feelings, and I am not frightened by those feelings,” he says. In fact, the mental health professional you’re speaking with wants you to be as open as honest as you possibly can. That way, they can help you work through your thoughts and feelings to the fullest extent.

6. Your Counselor Loves What They Do and Wants to Help

If you’re afraid your anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges will burden or alarm your counselor, they would like to kindly remind you to think again. “Through Crisis Text Line, I have come to learn that helping others is an amazing way to help yourself,” Weeks says. “The skills learned and all the experiences have helped me in life to be a better person in terms of listening, caring, and talking in a way to be heard. I will likely work with Crisis Text Line for the rest of my life.” If or when you’re overcome with worries that you’re oversharing or overwhelming your counselor, or that they might even be judging you, remind yourself that you’re both there for a reason. Crisis counselors and other mental health professionals are there because they care and want to help you transition to a more positive path.

7. Your Vulnerability Is a Strength, Not a Weakness

Being vulnerable is hard—and it’s even harder in a society that often deems vulnerability a weakness. But it’s only when we open up and confront our feelings and hardships that we truly experience growth and healing—and ultimately, become stronger versions of ourselves. “It is in our willingness to be vulnerable in the face of potential rejection that we are capable of forming the tightest bonds with others in our life,” Lucero says. “When we are willing to tolerate the distress of change, of being uncomfortable while we develop new relationships, we can live out our most important values.”

Where to Get Help

If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, these organizations may provide assistance:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Call: 988

Crisis Text Line Text

“TALK” to 741-741

The TrevorLifeline – serving members of the LGBTQ+ community ages 25 and under

Call: 866-488-7386

Text “START” to 678-678

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

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