The signs someone needs support
Everyone has mental health, it’s just the quality of our mental health that fluctuates throughout our lives. After all, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue each year7/8. But what are the signs that you or your loved one’s mental health is deteriorating?
For many, there are some tell-tale signs that you’re not feeling quite right. Changes in sleep and appetite could be an indication of declining mental health9,10. From sleeping too much because of low mood and energy to sleeping too little due to anxious worrying and ruminating thoughts, both can be signs of an underlying issue11. This can be helped by improving your bedtime routine including minimising screen time, ensuring you get enough sunlight daily and creating a relaxing sleep environment with calming scents and comfortable bedding. Try and engage in movement throughout the day, this could be anything from a long walk, gentle yoga or maybe a boxing session at your local gym! Also, be mindful of what you’re consuming before shut-eye by avoiding caffeine 6 hours before sleeping – alcohol can also disturb your sleep quality. All these things can contribute to a good night’s kip. So, if your friend or colleague seems lethargic, looks visibly tired or is complaining about not getting enough zzz’s why not share some of these tips?
Changes in appetite
Drastic changes in weight, including significant gain or loss, is another sure indication you or your loved one is experiencing issues12. Whether it’s due to depression, anxiety or something else, overeating and undereating can be a symptom of poor mental health. Burning lots of energy quickly due to anxiety or lack of movement or overeating due to depression can cause your weight to change. It can be a tricky subject to bring up but if you notice drastic changes in someone’s mood and weight, let them know help is there.
Loss of interest
Another sign to watch out for is loss of interest in… well just about everything 13. It’s called ‘anhedonia’ and refers to that feeling when all the fun has been sucked out of life and you just can’t. Have they been skipping their weekly football training or not taking part in the work coffee mornings? Be sure to check in on them, it could be a sign things are not okay.
Perhaps most important of all is being able to spot suicidal behaviour. Your loved one could be openly talking about death, self-harming or taking part in reckless behaviour including drink-driving or drug use14. They may also express feelings of hopelessness and start giving away their possessions. It’s important to offer a non-judgemental space for them to express their feelings and encourage them to seek help from their GP or mental health professional and, in extreme cases, the emergency services. Remember middle-aged men are in the highest risk group for suicide15, so take special care when looking out for your friends, family and colleagues in this group.