8 November 2023 posted by Recovery Partners

Mental health is a crucial aspect of our overall wellbeing, and it’s essential to be able to recognise when someone close to you might be going through a challenging time. Changes in a person’s physical appearance, mood, behaviour and how they express their thoughts can all be indicators of underlying mental health issues. Below are signs and symptoms to help recognise if someone is experiencing mental health challenges. By understanding these signs, we can be better equipped to offer assistance to those who may be struggling. 

Behavioural Changes
One of the most noticeable and significant signs when identifying mental health challenges is behavioural changes. It’s essential to observe and pay attention to shifts in a person’s actions and habits. When someone is facing mental health issues, they exhibit dramatic alterations in their behaviour. This could manifest as:

  •  Social withdrawal
  • Engaging in risky behaviours
  • Abruptly isolating themselves from friends and family

These changes in behaviour can serve as strong indicators that someone may be struggling with their mental health.

Emotional and Mood Fluctuations
Another critical sign in recognising mental health challenges is the presence of emotional and mood fluctuations. Individuals facing such issues often experience frequent and extreme shifts in the emotional states. They may go through prolonged periods of sadness, followed by moments of extreme irritability or agitation. These mood swings can be significant indicators of emotional distress, and the intensity and frequency of these fluctuations can vary from person to person.

Emotional and Mood Fluctuations
Another critical sign in recognising mental health challenges is the presence of emotional and mood fluctuations. Individuals facing such issues often experience frequent and extreme shifts in the emotional states. They may go through prolonged periods of sadness, followed by moments of extreme irritability or agitation. These mood swings can be significant indicators of emotional distress, and the intensity and frequency of these fluctuations can vary from person to person.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Increased irritability, snappy or frustration
  • Appearing more anxious or worried
  • Reacting with intense emotions than the situation requires
  •  Quick to get angry
  •  Appearing overwhelmed by tasks

Social Isolation and Withdrawal
Social isolation and withdrawal from once-enjoyed activities or social interactions are telltale signs of mental health challenges. When someone is struggling, they may suddenly avoid gatherings they used to relish, stop responding to calls and messages, or become increasingly reclusive.

This behaviour is a clear signal that they are facing mental health challenges and may require support and understanding from their loved ones.

Physical Manifestations 
Mental health challenges can manifest physically, forming another crucial element in recognising signs. These physical symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Unexplained aches and pains

It’s important to acknowledge that emotional distress can have tangible effects on a person’s body, underscoring the mind-body connection in mental health.

Sleep and Appetite Changes
Changes in sleep patterns and appetite are common indicators of mental health issues. These changes can manifest as excessive sleeping or chronic insomnia, as well as significant alterations in appetite, leading to sudden weight loss or gain. Monitoring these changes can provide insights into the presence of underlying mental health problems.

Cognitive Challenges
People facing mental health challenges may experience cognitive difficulties as well. These challenges may include:

  •  Poor concentration
  • Decision making difficulty.
  •  Inability to complete tasks

These cognitive issues can be distressing for the individual and can substantially impact their daily functioning.

 Self-Medication
Another sign of recognising mental health challenges is self-medicating through substance abuse. Some individuals may turn to drugs and/or alcohol as a means to cope with their emotional pain or numb their feelings. Identifying this behaviour is crucial for early intervention and providing the necessary support.

Verbal Expressions of Distress
Verbal expressions of distress, such as feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or explicit suicidal thoughts, are clear indications that someone is struggling with their mental health. It is imperative to take these verbal cues seriously and provide immediate support. Encouraging professional help becomes even more critical when these expressions are made. Some examples to keep an eye out for:

  • Interpreting situations in a negative manner
  • Personalising situations: Believing everything is a reflection of their self-worth
  • Disjointed or confused expressions
  • Catastrophising things: Assuming the worst-case scenario

Recognising and understanding these signs and symptoms of mental health challenges is essential for providing support and intervention to those in need. It is important to approach the situation with empathy, compassion and understanding. If you suspect that someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, encourage them to seek professional help and be there to lend a listening ear. Mental health is a complex and highly individualised aspect of our lives, and your support and care can be a lifeline for someone in need.

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis or experiencing distress, please don’t hesitate to contact 000 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Find out more about our Workplace Wellness Programs 

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/