18 Things People Said That Were Code Words for 'I Need Help'


Mental illness is not always noticeable. For those struggling, it might be easy to hide under the guise of “high-functioning,” may be a difficult subject to talk about because of stigma or might feel less valid because mental illness isn’t as “visible” as other conditions.

That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us things they’ve said to others they may not have realized was code for: “I need help.” Because when we know what signs to look for that someone else may be struggling, we can better support one another in our times of need.

Here is what our community had to say:

1. “I can’t sleep tonight.”

“I often reach out late at night because that’s when it gets hardest. Usually people just tell me to go to sleep, or ask why I didn’t text someone else.” — Theresa C.

2. “I’m tired,” or “I’m sleepy.”

“‘I’m sleepy,’ means I need to shut myself off and sleep so I can forget the world for a while.” — Emely M.

“I often use being ‘tired’ as an excuse to not be social and as a ‘code’ for depression. When I say that, it means that it has been tough and I really need help and support.” — Linda Z.

3. “I might just eat alone today.”

“When my friends invite me to eat dinner with them at the dining hall I tell them I’ll eat alone, because I know when I’m having a bad day I would ruin the mood. However, deep down I wait someone to reach out to me and ask if everything is OK when I say that.” — Karen T.

4. “I wish you were here with me.”

“This is something I say to someone I trust when I don’t trust myself and I feel like I am about to spiral out of control with my anxiety.” — Kaila G.

5. “It’s one of those days.”

“This just means I’m having a bad day, please take care of me. Most of my close friends learned this code and it helps a lot.” — Viviane A.

6. “I’m doing alright.”

“I never use the word ‘alright’ unless I’m not doing OK.” — Chelsie C.

7. “Don’t leave me.”

“I don’t like to be alone when my thoughts get bad.” — DJ V.

8. “Sorry, I missed that.”

“This is usually a sign that I’m drowning in my thoughts and even though I was watching you talk to me, I didn’t hear a sound. — Jess S.

9. “It’s really loud in here.”

“I’m hyper-sensitive to sound, so certain noises make me extremely uncomfortable (think chewing or ASMR stuff) and when there’s too many noises or it’s too loud it can give me an anxiety attack.” — Mikelle M.

10.  “What are you up to?” or “Are you busy?”

“I always say, ‘Are you busy?’ Or I try to reach out and tell them about my day. I hope that by starting a conversation about what I did that day they’ll take interest and that usually makes me feel better.” — Julia P.

“A lot of things along those lines is what I use to reach out if I’m feeling really low but don’t want to make it obvious or be a burden.” — Elaan G.

11. “Can I call you?” or “Can you talk?”

“I just need to hear someone else’s voice, I just want the feeling that someone is there, instead of me always being with my thoughts, because my mind secretly kills me.” — Lauren P.

I send this message to friends a lot when I’m having trouble. Sometimes I just need to talk too my friends.” — Katrenia G.

12. “Never mind, I’ll deal with/talk about it later.”

“Later never comes and I never talk or deal with it, but it’s a pre-cursor to realizing it’s getting too overwhelming and that I need help but don’t know how to ask for or accept it. — Rachel C.

13. “I need to take a sick day.”

“Some days, I just can’t do it and don’t want to tell people my mind just won’t work and play well with me today.” — Rod K.

14. “I don’t feel well.”

“Most people think I have a headache or I’m tired, even if I say it’s not that, but they just ignore it.” — Sali B.

15. “I’m going to go lay down.”

“This means I want to run away and just get away from the world. But I also want you to see that something is wrong and ask me what it is or just lay there with me as I deal.” — Michelle C.

16. “I’m not doing too good.”

“This is the way I’ve learned to say it.  Or when I text my son and ask him to send me a text back saying something nice; he knows I need to hear I’m important or that he loves me. Sometimes he sends a picture of my grandson as encouragement. He knows I fight hard to stay here for both him and his son.” — Lisa M.

17.  “Hey, how are you?”

“Meaning you should ask me too and help me cope because it’s killing me inside.” — Airamae C.

18. “I’m OK.”

“I say this when someone asks, ‘How are you?’ I wanted them to ask why I’m just OK and not good, but at the same time, I am way too scared to ask for help. Hell, half the time I don’t even know what’s exactly wrong myself. It’s just all an overwhelming blur that I can’t describe.” — Kyla K.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Getty image via fcscafeine


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