Detecting mental illness


It is not easy to detect if someone is having mental health problems.  We are all so busy with our own lives how will we know when someone else is suffering in silence?

Detecting mental ill health early might save the sufferer and their family weeks and months of emotional heartache. The longer it is left untreated the harder it gets to climb back out of the abyss.

If you feel someone you know is acting out of the ordinary, talking about things they would not normally talk about, behaving in a strange way then these might be clues to an underlying problem. Not every strange behaviour and language points to mental health problems but it is better if you dig a bit deeper to see what is going on and if there are any areas where they need help.

Better to be safe than sorry as the saying goes but it is so true. Ask probing questions to the person behaving oddly, find out if there is anything upsetting them. See if they need someone to talk to or maybe they might need professional help. I think it is harder for the ill person to reach out for help than it is for someone else to strike up a conversation with the intention to check on their well being.

I am not saying everyone can figure things out as to what is going on and not everybody will have a medical background to get to the crux of the problem but just reassuring someone or letting them know you are there for them is a good start.  It might take several conversations to get to any meaningful discussion about what is bothering someone. We need to make that time for our friends and family. It must be an awful feeling to think you have nobody to turn to in your time of difficulty. I know some people might not like or be comfortable talking about their problems but it has to be done for the sake of their well being.

“One in four of us will suffer from mental health problems at some point in our lives”

Mental illness affects people differently so it is difficult to pick up if someone is not well but some common signs might be that they are not eating and sleeping as they normally would. Perhaps they are not socialising as much as they used to and prefer to stay on their own more often.

Maybe they are arguing with their family and friends more or get upset quickly or over minor things that otherwise would not bother them. It is not easy to pick up on these clues and may take some time to gather the information but it will help you when talking to the person about the change in them that is worrying you. Maybe they have fallen in with the wrong crowd or resorting to drugs or alcohol if they are not already involved in these activities. Substance abuse is rife in our society and a contributory factor in mental illness. Whatever it is that is ringing alarm bells in your head, it is better to talk it over with them, showing them your concern so that problems can be addressed early on.

Be there for each other

One in four of us will suffer from mental health problems at some point in our lives but if we have caring people around us, looking out for our wellbeing, providing a shoulder to cry on, our battles will be less heartbreaking to deal with than if we were on our own.

We need to be there for each other, encouraging each other and talking about issues which are bothering us. Bottling up your problems never gets you anywhere, in fact it makes things worse and you might lash out at the wrong person at the wrong time. If you feel someone is not their usual self, talk to them in a gentle manner, let them know you are there for them when they are ready to talk. Deal with uncomfortable conversations now rather than dealing with fights, hallucinations, eating disorders, trouble with the police later on.

If you feel things may get out of hand when talking to someone, it might be an idea to encourage them to write down what they are going through and you can see how best to help them based on that. Some work places offer counselling services and other well being initiatives which is invaluable in this day and age. Often, these services allow you to remain anonymous which will appeal to those who do not want to disclose their identity.

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  1. Being mentally ill too, I can relate to many of the points you have given. I know that not even the most learned of psychiatrists can understand a person’s feeling to his/her voices and hallucinations. And people who have healed from this ordeal should be motivated to work in mental health. The patient becomes the best doctor, so to speak, due to the fact the they would know what a person with psychosis is feeling, relating to their problems in comparison to what he/she felt when ill.

    Whenever I have an appointment with my psychiatrist, there is a sense of extreme déjà vu. Same questions and same outcomes (increase in medication). The mental health system is a shambles and always has been.

    People that have been ill before are stigmatized by the system, not allowing them to help, when they are the only ones who truly can!

  2. I agree with what Naomi said above, adults sometimes themselves don’t even realise they have an issue. When you try to help someone suffering, your efforts can sometimes be rebuffed. It is ready hard.

  3. I agree with you that being there for friends and family who are suffering is important, especially the listening part. It’s critical to develop trust before making suggestions. In my experience, it is very difficult to get adults to get adults to admit that they need help and then go for an appointment. For example, we have battled with getting my schizophrenic brother-in-law to take his meds. We finally realized, due to years of his avoidance, that he needed daily support with this, so he lives in a group home now where he is happy.



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