Mental Illness is something that is becoming a big topic all over the world nowadays. Thanks to shows like 13 Reasons Why, it's slowly becoming more of a conversation that's less taboo, but there's still work to be done.
Many of us still don't know the signs of mental illness or can tell if a loved one is suffering from it or not. Some can do well at masking it and reassuring you that they're okay, when behind closed doors they truly aren't.
So, what are some of the signs/symptoms that you can look out for or signals of distress that may be displayed by someone who you're close to? We're not saying to examine your friends and family under a microscope and think that every little thing that they do is a "sign".
What we're saying is, if you're noticing sudden changes in behavior and/or thoughts, maybe it's time for you to pull them aside and have a sit down talk and ease into getting them the help they need.
1. Sudden Social Withdrawal
They used to be chatty about everything and easy going: easy to laugh with, loved to crack jokes, and always wanted to hang around everyone. All of a sudden, they're withdrawn. You haven't seen them as much. You give them an invite to hang out and they turn it down along with a handful of excuses. Don't just write this off as them being distant for selfish reasons. Check in with them and see what's really going on.
2. Seemingly Emotional/Emotionless
It's common for someone to be a bit emotional if they're going through something like a breakup, death, life change, etc. However, what's not common is for someone to constantly be emotional (i.e. crying or angry for no "reason" and lashing out) or emotionless such as not showing emotion at all and seeming "cold". Be careful being quick to call this person out and making them feel bad. On the inside, they could be suffering from something that's far beyond anything you may imagine.
3. Talking loosely about suicidal thoughts
Jokes among our friends here and there are completely normal, but not ones that involve "I might just go jump off a cliff and hope I don't come back up". If you're noticing your friend/family member talking about killing or bringing harm to themselves in anyway, immediately sit them down and really get help. Suicidal thoughts are usually correlated with severe depression and also the side effects of some medications, even anti-depressants. Get them to seek help immediately.
4. Increased Irritability
We all get a little irritated here and there when someone is talking just a bit too much--let's be honest. However, what's a little bit beyond the edge is if suddenly the irritability comes with the simplest of conversations and it stirs out of nothing. Your friend/family member out of the blue becomes upset with you with just regular girl/guy talk and angry, it's time to really check in with them and see what the problem is, especially if this person rarely if ever acts out that way.
5. Strange Thoughts/Delusions
Dreaming of meeting Morris Chestnut (who's married by the way) and him serenading us with a sweet song isn't too far off the crazy train. What isn't cool, though, is when there's thoughts that are way too far off that involves hurting someone or something or themselves, thinking someone's talking about them or that they're hearing things, and causing unnecessary drama. This is also along the lines of schizophrenia which is a mental disorder that involves the breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception. According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children have schizophrenia too.
The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.¹
There are plenty of other things to look out for such as confusion, extreme highs or lows, changes in sleeping or eating habits, inability to execute daily activities, and more.²
Instead of ignoring these subtle signs, start talking with them and be the trusted confidant that they need. And also, take a moment to evaluate your behavior, too. You won't be deemed as "crazy" or looked at insanely. You will be looked at as someone who is putting their health first and that's what's important and the start of tearing down the negative stigma.
Have you checked in with yourself? Take our mental health assessment to see where you stand here.
As always, seek professional help from a licensed therapist and if you are having thoughts of suicide, please call someone today at 1-800-273-8255. They're available to speak to you 24 hours a day.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (2016). Schizophrenia. Retrieved June 6, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml.
² Mental Health America. Mental Illness and the Family: Recognizing Warning Signs and How to Cope. Retrieved June 6, 2018, from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/recognizing-warning-signs.