How To Tell Your Parents You Want To Go For Therapy

By Wild Ginger

How To Tell Your Parents You Want To Go For Therapy

July 7th, 2021 at 7:23 am

Although the ongoing pandemic has pushed overall wellbeing to the forefront, forcing many people to finally accept the importance of mental health, the stigma surrounding it still persists. In Malaysia, the mental health stigma is deeply entrenched in our society and cultures. This has caused individuals to experience prejudice and discrimination, and led them to feel hopelessness and shame. 


With these generational differences, and our own individual views on mental health, therapy can be a difficult topic to talk about. Some parents and caregivers may not understand the severity of mental health issues, brushing off the need for support. A common cause for this avoidance is the fear of being judged – by their community for having a child with mental illness, and by mental health professionals for personal issues being shared. They may even feel like a failure or believe that it makes them a bad parent / caregiver.


As normal as it is to want to partake in therapy, this stigma may deter someone from seeking treatment because they’re afraid of telling their parents or caregivers. Will they be angry? Will they be sad? It can be a daunting conversation, but it is more important to prioritize your mental health – continuing to hide your problems could have dangerous consequences.


You may not be able to change their minds after one talk about therapy, but here are some ways you can prepare for and approach the tough topic:

If you’re unsure about where your parents stand when it comes to mental health, try talking to them about general mental health topics. In some cases, parents and caregivers are unsupportive because they don’t understand the importance of mental health. Currently, there’s plenty of local news coverage on the rise of mental health issues in Malaysia – ask for their opinion on how it’s being handled. You can also share other general resources, news articles and commentary to gauge their potential reaction. Even if it is a discouraging reaction, they could react differently when it comes to you.


  • Write It Down

Planning and preparing for the conversation will help build your confidence during the potentially difficult situation. Plan out what you’re going to say with clear examples of how your feelings or symptoms have affected your daily life, such as, “I’ve been feeling anxious, which is why I’ve been irritable towards you” or “I’ve been sleeping all day, which is a sign of depression”. Help them understand your experience better. In saying that, you should also prepare for them to still not get it. They could reply with “that’s no excuse” or “you should try exercising”. Be prepared to answer why you require a mental health professional instead, as well as address any financial concerns they may have.


If you can, pick a time that would be best for them – avoid times where they could already be stressed, like after work. Be kind and firm as you express your feelings and open up about your experiences. At the same time, try to understand what they may be feeling – they could be scared that you’re struggling, feel as if they are to blame, or generally have difficulty expressing their emotions. You can acknowledge their feelings by approaching it like, “I know this might be hard to hear, but I’ve been struggling and I think I need professional help”.  


  • If They Say No

Give your parents or caregivers time to process the information as it is new to them and may be hard to grasp. However, do not let their lack of support discourage you from seeking help – share the benefits or insights that you’ve gained from therapy with them. If you’re financially dependent on your parents, try reaching out to your college counsellor, doctor or a crisis helpline to get the help and support you need. 


Despite your parents or caregivers’ disapproval, know that help is out there. Here are some free and affordable mental health services available in Malaysia. Just remember that your feelings and experiences are valid, and that it is completely normal and healthy to go for therapy. For immediate support, please call the Befrienders’ 24-hour hotline at 03-76272929.


Learn more about setting healthy boundaries with your family here

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