Asking for a Friend: Help! I try talking about my problems but everyone says to ‘toughen up’

  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help a student in a low mood who isn’t being taken seriously
YP |

Latest Articles

Hong Kong’s rural cleaners struggle to find suitable protection against extreme heat

Top 10: How would you encourage someone to try a plant-based diet?

‘The Little Mermaid’ review: Disney’s live-action remake filled with awkward CGI

It’s normal to feel down sometimes, and it’s OK to feel your feelings! Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us. If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google Form. Don’t worry – you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

I have been feeling down recently. But whenever I tell people about it, they just tell me to toughen up and get through it. I don’t feel it is very helpful for my situation. What should I do?

Signed, Tough Enough

How can I learn to stop running from my emotions?

Dear Tough Enough,

It can be very frustrating when people don’t take our low moods seriously or say something unhelpful; it can also make you wonder if they are actually listening and supporting you. We hope you are not beating yourself up over this, as it is common for us to feel blue sometimes.

It’s likely that the people you have been talking to don’t know how to respond or are passing on the advice they were given. It’s only recently become more acceptable to talk about anxiety and depression. Some people still aren’t comfortable discussing it or aren’t ready to accept that it’s OK to feel sad and need support. Don’t take it personally because it has more to do with them and their feelings than you.

Help! I don’t know how to talk to my parents about serious issues

Although it might not feel helpful right now, you are doing the right thing by sharing your feelings with others. It helps you avoid suppressing or repressing your negative emotions, which could lead to anger, anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. You may have even eased some of your stress by simply talking to people: sometimes just venting, and putting words to your problems, can help.

Try to figure out what’s causing your stress. This might not be easy to do on your own. If previous conversations with your friends or parents haven’t worked, maybe you can try reframing it: instead of saying you’re feeling down, you can say you’ve been stressed lately, but you’re not sure what’s causing it, and you need some help to sort through your life and activities to see what it could be. They may be able to give you some insight since they could be less emotionally involved and more objective. Apart from your family, you could reach out to your teachers or a school counsellor as an alternative.

Don’t feel ashamed about feeling down, and don’t stop reaching out for support! Photo: Shutterstock

Make sure you’re doing activities that can help boost your mood. For example, exercise regularly to refresh and maintain psychological well-being, focus on interests that make you feel happy and fulfilled, and practise meditation and mindfulness to relieve stress and give you a better sense of self.

If your low mood persists, it is possible you may be dealing with a more serious mental health problem, such as depression. Other symptoms of depression include loss of interest in everyday activities, a significant increase or decrease in appetite or body weight, irritability, and insomnia. If these symptoms persist for at least two weeks and affect your everyday life, you should seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Hope that helps, Friend of a Friend

The question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy