Those who struggle with mental illness don’t like asking for help. A mentally ill person often fails to speak up when they are struggling and need some help, but they may hint at it.

Research sourced from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that nearly one in five adults has mental illness. With this being the case, it is undoubtedly possible that someone you love struggles.

When they hint at it, they’ll use secret phrases that they hope others pick up on. Saying they need help can be hard for them because it’s difficult to admit to a struggle. They may also be afraid of how those around them will act if they ask for help.

Knowing these secret phrases is essential because you’ll be able to pick up on the hints. Since asking for help is so difficult for some people, those who love them will need to know these phrases.

Phrases People Say When They are Asking for Help

1. “I can’t sleep.”

When someone is struggling with their mental health, they often cannot sleep at night. They lie awake while their thoughts run wild. It is not for any specific lack of trying that they can’t sleep, but it’s that they are so overwhelmed inside.

This phrase is a good indicator that they are asking for help. They need someone to help through hard times. Or, it may be that they need someone who can listen to them as they talk.

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2. “I’m really tired.”

Similarly to the “I can’t sleep” phrase, people who need help may also say, “I’m really tired”.

The person may not truly be tired. Indeed, the narrative could be a way that they are letting you know they are struggling. It could also be their excuse to stay home instead of heading out for social interaction.

Other times, they really might be exhausted. When they weren’t able to sleep all night, they will be drained during the day.

If you notice someone is often tired during the day or they tell you they are tired, pay attention. It could be a first indication that they need help but don’t want to ask for it. Show them kindness during this time, because they need it.

3. “It’s one of those days.”

This saying secretly means that they could use some help today. The person’s thoughts and feelings are getting the best of them, and they need a way to alleviate some of it.

Those individuals who struggle with mental illness know that not all days are great. There are many days that you can tell are going to be negative.

When this happens, it will be the only thing on the person’s mind. It can make them seem quiet, distracted, irritable, or sad. This confusion can also make things difficult as they try to go about their daily tasks.

4. “Can I call you?”

Sometimes, even if they don’t talk about what’s bothering them, people who want help will call to speak. They need to hear someone’s voice and know that someone is there for them. It also helps them get their mind off of their struggles.

By answering the phone when they call, you’ll be showing them that they aren’t alone. The person needs to have someone in their life that they know will always be there when they need someone.

5. “I’ll deal with this later.”

Even when something should be dealt with right away, someone who needs help may give up, instead. It means that they are getting overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, or depressed about it. When they say this phrase, they’d love it if you could help them out.

Sometimes, they say they’ll deal with something later when they can’t think about it right then. When the mind is preoccupied with negative thoughts, they will struggle to keep their thoughts straight. This mindset can lead to giving up on what they are trying to work on.

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6. “I don’t feel good.”

When you can tell that something is wrong and you ask about it, this may be the response you get. It doesn’t always mean they feel sick.

It could mean that they are depressed, anxious, or any other negative feelings. For them, it’s easier to say they don’t feel good than it is to ask for help. This moment would be a good time for you to sit with them, and no words or entertainment will be necessary.

7. “I have a headache.”

They may use this secret phrase in the same way that they use the last one. It’s how they explain their demeanor being off, and it’s how they let you know something is wrong. If you know someone who often uses this as an excuse, it could be their way of reaching out for help.

Of course, if the person doesn’t generally say this, it could genuinely be a headache they are suffering from. If this secret phrase happens on multiple occasions, however, it could be a sign.

8. “I need to lay down.”

Sometimes people get so overwhelmed by their emotional responses that they need to lay down. It may seem impossible for them to do anything else, and they feel safe and secure lying down. When this happens, they likely could use some help, even if you can’t do anything to fix it.

Your aid could come in the form of finishing up whatever they were working on. Or, your support could be that you spend time with your friend, so they know they aren’t alone. Sometimes knowing someone who cares about you is nearby can help relieve some of the feelings.

9. “I’m OK.”

When someone says this, it generally means they are not alright. This phrase is an answer someone will give when they don’t want to come right out and say that something is wrong. It doesn’t mean that things are going well for them, and they likely have something on their mind.

10. “I can’t think right now.”

With thoughts and emotions overwhelming their brain, they will have trouble focusing. The task at hand could be one they do every day, and they will struggle when they need help. This response is because they aren’t able to think clearly.

They need a distraction, which you could offer them by talking about other things. Maybe what would be best, however, is to talk about how they are feeling. While you shouldn’t force them to talk, encourage them to do so and make sure to listen attentively.

How to Respond When Someone Is Asking for Help

Often, the person who needs help doesn’t want you to fix their problem. They also aren’t looking for reassurance or encouragement. Instead, the things that tend to help them include:

  • listening as they talk
  • an empathetic listener
  • someone to validate their emotions
  • a home-cooked meal
  • someone to sit in silence with them
  • a hug
  • a patient person to be there for them
  • compassionate support
  • show kindness

Things You Should Avoid Saying to Some Who Needs Assistance

“I know what you are going through because it happened to me.”

When you say this, it is turning the conversation to you and your problems. While you may be trying to be helpful, you have to remember that everyone’s situation is different. What techniques worked for you might not work for them, so telling them what you did to overcome won’t help, either.

It might also make that other person feel as if you don’t care about what they are going through. Plus, even if you don’t realize it, it shows that you aren’t listening to how the other person feels.

 “Your situation isn’t that bad. There was a time…”

When you respond to their conversation with a story about someone who had it worse, it invalidates their feelings. It diminishes what they are going through, and makes it seem like you aren’t being compassionate. The stories you might tell won’t help the situation, and they aren’t exactly an act of kindness, either.

“Get it together.” or “It’s not that bad.”

These types of comments show that you don’t understand how the person is feeling. It only makes them feel more lonesome and unsupported. They’ll be more likely to withhold their opinions in the future, too.

“I’m worried you’ll never get through this.”

This statement is the worst thing you could ever say to someone who needs help. If you tell them that you are worried about this, they’ll give up on themselves. They will stop trying to get through hard times and live in misery, instead.

Instead, stay positive and supportive while showing confidence in them. If they know you believe in them, they’ll believe in themselves, too.

 Other things you should avoid when talking to them include:

  • explaining their situation or feelings for them
  • saying that everything will be alright
  • changing the subject
  • trying to fix their problem
  • not allowing them to show their emotions
  • analyzing the situation
  • pushing spiritual beliefs on them

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Final Thoughts on the Secret Phrases People Say When They’re Asking for Help

People who struggle with mental health challenges do not like asking for help, but they sometimes need it. Remember these secret phrases people say when they’re asking for help and do what you can to help them. Sometimes all someone needs in life is a friend to be there for them and show them extra kindness and compassion.

Sometimes, those in our lives need more help than we can give. When this situation is the case, it’s essential to seek professional advice. For more resources and information, you can visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.