Opening Up to a Trusted Adult
Taking the first step and opening up to someone about your struggles can induce feelings of anxiety and fear. Opening up about what you’re feeling could have been widely stigmatized, or branded, as being weak and/or ‘crazy’—a sensitive term that should not describe someone with a mental health illness.
On the other side of things, some adults are not taking youth mental health as seriously as they should so they contribute to the problem as well. Finding a trusted adult to talk to about what you’re going through at this age is critical in developing your overall wellness.
However, for some youth, it is more complicated to ask for help because they have been previously hurt by the mistrust of an adult and they do not want to make the same mistake and show vulnerability to the wrong person. As a result, this can make someone shut down completely and learn to not trust others.
Now more than ever, it’s important to break down the stigma of youth mental health and let others, and yourself, understand that reaching out is not a sign of weakness but a step in the right direction.
Here are some characteristics to look for in a trusted adult.
What To Look For In A Trusted Adult
A respectful person shows that they care through their words and their actions. They hold you to a high standard and do not make you feel inferior, or less important, to them. This is an important quality to see because they help you feel safe and accepted. Despite possible differences in personal beliefs, they will make the effort to listen and understand where you’re coming from.
A respectful person will also resist pushing your comfort level whether that is with the amount of information shared or with how they want to talk with you. Having someone who is respectful of your boundaries is a key component of a trusted adult. A person, especially an adult, who pushes you when you’re not ready is someone who does not respect your time or your effort to open up.
A non-judgemental person will not criticize or judge you based on your appearance, past choices, future decisions, or beliefs and values. They do not reflect their own bias onto you even if it does clash with their own. A non-judgemental person is often empathic and can, on some level, relate to your situation. A peer support worker is a great example of a non-judgemental individual. Peer support workers are people who have lived experience in areas such as addiction and mental health challenges. They utilize these experiences to support other people who are currently or have also lived through trying times. Since they have been through similar situations, they are in no position to judge. It’s also important to note that a non-judgemental person does not cater their expertise to certain people. They do not take age, race, gender identity, financial status, or other personal aspects into account and will talk with anyone looking for a connection.
Being accountable is a self-driven skill that ultimately showcases that you answer to your own actions. Accountability is important to find in a trusted adult because it shows that they will not make excuses for the things they choose to do. As an adult, this person has a sense of ownership for all their choices, even if some of those choices were not good ones to make. Accountability is a skill that can be shared from adult to youth. Ask this person if they can share how they hold themselves accountable and you can apply those particular skills in your life whether it’s at home, school, on a team, in a club, etc.
To trust someone means you have the confidence to confide or open up because you feel safe and comfortable with them. It is a feeling that is generated from a growing friendship or companionship—it doesn’t have to happen right away. A trustworthy person is someone you can depend on to keep vulnerable and sensitive information about yourself confidential, and never spoken to anyone else, unless you give them permission to do so. As a trusted adult, they will never use your secrets against you and will prioritize your physical safety and emotional well-being. Identifying someone to fully trust can be stressful, however, it does take time to develop. You are on your own timeline when to share and be vulnerable with this person.
A trusted adult who is helpful is willing to provide guidance and help create solutions with you that will focus and show you what next steps to take if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed. They are wanting to provide clarity to a situation that, to you, might seem impossible to fix. This person can also be extremely helpful by not sharing solutions or ways to fix your problems, and just listening to you with an open mind. It is up to you where the conversation goes and if that conversation involves your trusted adult speaking on ways to help you through their suggestions.
A thoughtful person is considerate of all your needs. They choose to react and act in a purposeful and loving way that responds well to your behaviours. For example, if they know you are not one that responds well to physical touch when feeling emotional, they will comfort you in other ways by offering a warm beverage or handing over tissues. They show characteristics of being attentive yet, cautious as well as being mindful of where they are and who they are talking to.
Now that you know what kinds of characteristics to look for in a trusted adult, you can start to think of which people in your life have those qualities.
If you don’t know where to start, grab a piece of paper and draw a tree. In the tree, draw three branches. On the branches, or in small boxes, write the name of three safe adults that you can think of that belong in your trust tree.
A safe adult can be your mom, step-mom, dad, step-dad, an older sibling, an older relative (cousin, aunt or uncle), a grandparent, a parent or guardian of a close friend, a neighbour, a teacher, a coach, a counsellor, or anyone you can think of that you trust.
It is always up to you who you share your challenges with, but the most important part is that you are sharing with an adult that you are comfortable with, who you trust and on your own time.
You are not alone. There is help.
If you cannot find someone you trust who is willing to support you, dial a crisis line right away at 403-266-HELP (4357) All crisis lines are confidential.
*CMHA Calgary’s YouthSMART does not necessarily support or endorse the listed community resources. We have reviewed each source, however external organizations may change content without notice.*
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