Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also determines how we handle stress, the choices we make, how we feel and express ourselves, and how we relate to others.
Good mental health is distinguished by our ability to fulfil multiple key functions including our ability to learn, to manage positive and negative emotions and how we form and maintain good relationships with others.
If you’ve noticed a change in a friend, neighbour or loved one’s behaviour, how would you know whether they’re in a mood or whether it’s actually something more serious?
Recognising symptoms of mental health issues
The Department of Health reports 1 in 5 Australians are dealing with a mental health issue.
There are usually tell-tale signs, and these can vary from person to person. Common signs include drinking too much, retreating from social activities, constant crying or a significant change in behaviour.
But often it’s not just a single sign we’ll notice, rather a combination of behavioural changes.
Signs of mental illness
1. Feeling anxious or worried
Let’s not forget we are all human and we do worry or stress from time to time. However, anxiety could be the sign of a mental health issue if it’s constant and interferes all the time. Symptoms may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headache, restlessness, diarrhoea or a racing mind.
2. Feeling depressed or unhappy
If you’ve lost interest in hobbies you used to enjoy, or you appear sad or irritable, lacking motivation and energy, or you’re teary all the time, you may well be dealing with depression.
3. Emotional outbursts
We all experience different moods, but any sudden or dramatic changes in mood, such as extreme distress or anger, can be symptoms of mental illness.
4. Sleep problems
On average, adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Changes to sleep patterns could be a symptomatic of a mental illness. Insomnia could be a sign of anxiety or substance abuse, or sleeping too much or too little could indicate depression or a sleep disorder.
5. Weight or appetite changes
If we’re being honest most of us have tried to lose a few kilos at some stage of our lives. However, fluctuating weight or rapid weight loss can be a sign of a mental illness like depression or an eating disorder. There are other mental health issues that impact appetite and weight too.
6. Quiet or withdrawn
We all need quiet time occasionally, but withdrawing from life, especially if this is a major change, could indicate a mental health issue. If you’re regularly isolating yourself or refusing to join in social activities, you may have depression, bipolar, a psychotic disorder, or another mental health issue.
7. Substance abuse
Are you, or someone you know, drinking too much? Using substances, such as alcohol or drugs, to cope can be a sign of, and a contributor to, mental health issues.
8. Feeling guilty or worthless
Thoughts like ‘I’m a failure’, ‘it’s my fault’ or ‘I’m worthless’ are all possible signs of a mental health issue, such as depression. You may need help if you’re frequently criticising or blaming yourself.
When severe, a person may express a feeling to hurt or kill themselves. This could mean they are suicidal and urgent help is needed. Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance immediately.
9. Changes in behaviour or feelings
A mental illness may start out as subtle changes to your feelings, thinking and behaviour but ongoing and significant changes could be a sign of a developing mental health issue.
Help is available
If something doesn’t seem ‘quite right’, it’s important to recognise the signs and start the conversation about getting help.
Help is widely available and two amazing organisations providing vital help to those in need include Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 and Lifeline 13 11 14, both offering 24/7 support.