Disclaimer: This article is not a green light for you to start diagnosing your family and friends, any diagnosis should be made by a mental health professional.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” This is a quote that was said by Brad Meltzer, and that we think everyone should live by. We all suffer from some kind of psychological issues, one way or the other, but some suffer far more than others to an extent that professional help is recommended, if not necessary.
In the first article of our series ‘Going Mental’, we established that there should not be a stigma around suffering from a mental illness and that this is an area in which we are slowly improving. In this article, we want to highlight some of the major signs that might act as red flags or signals that you or someone you know might be suffering from a mental illness and that it might be time to reach out for help.
We sat with our Managing Editor, who also happens to be a Psychologist, for a talk about the different symptoms that might be a sign that you’re dealing with something more serious than the usual stress and worry we all experience.
What to look for
If you notice that someone you know is going through drastic behavioral changes, suddenly becoming very isolated after once being a social person, sudden changes in sleeping and eating patterns, consistent feelings of guilt and shame, it might be time to pay attention.
Chronic fatigue, trouble breathing, being constantly preoccupied to the extent that you’re unable to make a decision, being unable to make any effort or commit to any work, no longer feeling pleasure for things that were once a source of pleasure; these are all things that could be a sign of an underlying mental illness.
Having said this, all these signs can be general symptoms of fatigue or stress, but if they persist and start to interfere with your daily life then it might be time to take action. In the end, if you are someone you love is unable to function in one or more area in life, be it work or self-care, it might be time to seek help. And, as with so many things, if in doubt, ask a professional.
How to deal
If you are the one struggling to breathe, to get out of bed in the morning or are suffering from any other distressing symptoms, don’t panic, and don’t despair. We are lucky to live in a world where many of us do have access, not only to qualified mental health professionals but to a great many resources that offer different forms of help. But the first step is to acknowledge that it might be time to reach out. If seeing a therapist is something that makes you nervous, try doing some reading online first; there are hundreds of great forums where people openly talk about their experiences with therapy and can provide useful insight into what the process might be like and how it can help you.
But, if it’s someone you know who needs help, be very careful not to impose yourself on them or force them to seek professional help. It is rarely possible to convince someone that they need professional help if they don’t already think so. Instead, accept them as they are in their time of need, let them know they are not alone, listen, offer support, and only then should you consider opening the door to a discussion about seeing a professional – the decision needs to come from them.
Where to get help
One of the most common misconceptions is that there is no difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. This isn’t true. A psychologist will listen and assist you in coping with what you’re going through, providing important insights and a deeper understanding of what you’re going through. A psychiatrist is recommended only if the case is more severe and medication is required to regain enough functioning so that the person can then begin working on themself.
Most importantly, let’s put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Even if we can’t help, we can at least be kind, and sometimes, that’s enough to pull someone out of the dark isolation of mental illness.