Mental Health Issues: Know the Signs – Know your Supports
Just as we were learning to live with the virus, Ireland’s recent spike in Covid 19 cases has led to Level 5 restrictions. And whilst we may be more accustomed to life in lockdown, bereavement, loneliness, isolation, loss of income and fear are still a factor in our lives. These can all trigger mental health conditions or exacerbate existing ones that may need support.
In this month’s blog we highlight some of the common signs and symptoms of a mental health issue, and outline some options available to you if you feel you need support. Often it’s not a single change in how we feel but a combination of elements. So, the signs we list are not intended to help you diagnose a mental health concern, but are to reassure you that there may be good reason to seek more information about your concerns.
So, how do you know if you need support? If you have never experienced a mental health issue before, identifying the signs and symptoms may be difficult. But mental illness is treatable, just like any other illness or injury. If you break a leg, you don’t ignore it. You seek medical help to fix it. And, it’s the same with mental health. If you feel you may need support or that you could be suffering from a mental health issue or illness, follow your instincts. Seek help.
1. Feeling anxious or worried
We all get anxious or worried or stressed from time to time. But if it’s constant and is increasingly interfering with your day-to-day life, it can be the sign of a mental health issue. Symptoms of anxiety may include heart palpitations, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, headache, restlessness, diarrhoea or a racing mind.
2. Feeling depressed or unhappy
Sadness is a normal emotion. But a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest may be a sign of a mental health condition. If you have felt sad, down, hopeless and/or irritable for a few weeks or more or if you’re lacking in motivation and energy or are teary a lot of the time, then you may be dealing with depression.
3. Emotional outbursts
Everyone has different moods. However, sudden and dramatic changes in mood, such as extreme distress or anger, can be a symptom of an underlying mental illness.
4. Sleep problems
Generally, we need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Persistent changes to a person’s sleep patterns could be a sign that their mental health is under stress. For example, insomnia can be a sign of stress or anxiety. Sleeping too much or too little could indicate depression or a sleeping disorder.
5. Weight or appetite changes
Many of us want to lose a few kilos, but for some people fluctuating weight, whether through over- or under-eating, could be a warning sign of a mental illness. It may be a sign of depression or, indeed, the start of an eating disorder. But lots of mental health issues can impact appetite and weight too. When we are stressed, our appetites can be affected either way.
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.
7. Substance abuse
Are you worried that you have been drinking or using other substances 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
Constant negative thinking can indicate a mental health issue such as depression. If you’re constantly self-critical or having thoughts like ‘I’m a failure’, ‘It’s my fault’ or ‘I’m worthless’, you may need to seek help. When this self-criticism is severe, a person may feel the urge to harm themselves or may even experience suicidal ideation. Having such feelings constantly could mean the person is suicidal and urgent help is needed. If you NEED HELP NOW for yourself or for another person: CALL your GP immediately, or call 999 or 112 in the event of an emergency
9. Changes in behaviour or feelings
A decline in our mental health may start with subtle changes to feelings, thinking and behaviour. Ongoing and significant changes such as confusion, aggression or compulsion could be a sign that you have or are developing a mental health issue. If something doesn’t feel ‘quite right’, it’s important to start the conversation about getting help.
Where to get help
- See your GP: The first step for a person with symptoms of a mental illness is to see a doctor asap.
- Tell a trusted friend or family member: The more people who know how you are feeling, the more people you will have to support you in getting the help you need. Sometimes, simply knowing that loved ones or close friends care and are willing to help and support you and that you are not alone, is a help in itself.
- Read 3Ts Self Help Guides: 3Ts have produced a series of self-help booklets across a range of topics that will serve as a ‘first step’ towards recovery. These booklets are written by clinical psychologists and will provide the reader with key cognitive behavioural techniques to help manage common mental health problems.
- Call a support line: Ring the Samaritans 24/7 on Freephone 116 123, or click for Crisis Helplines or suggested Specialist Support Helplines;
- TEXT Crisis Textline Ireland: 50808 is a free 24/7 text service. Text 3TS to 50808 to begin
- CALL 999 or 112: in the event of an emergency;
- A & E: visit your Accident & Emergency Department. Bring a companion if you can. They can help support you and keep you calm while you wait to be seen. For tips on attending A&E see this link: https://www.3ts.ie/need-help/ae-tips/
Mental Illness is not uncommon, everyone is susceptible to experiencing some kind of mental health issue at some point of their lives. Being proactive about minding your mental health is the single most important thing you can do to help protect yourself from symptoms developing.
If any of the above symptoms resonate with you, the sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you will begin to feel more yourself. Likewise, if you have not experienced any of these symptoms but are still worried that you could be at risk during this time, see our blog on protecting your mental wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Listen to your body because sometimes it’s telling you something about your mind.