How To Recognize Mental Health Issues in Others

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which not only means learning about mental illnesses and their symptoms but becoming aware of the mental health needs of those around you. 

Mental health issues can present themselves in a variety of ways, and symptoms differ from person to person. This is most certainly not an exhaustive list, but here are a few not-so-obvious signs your friend or family member might be struggling with their mental health. 

Problems concentrating or confusion
We all have those days where we’re a little spacey, and all the coffee in the world can’t wake us up. But, if your friend has been consistently out of it over a period of time, you might want to check in and see what’s on their mind.

Excessive fear or dread
Fear is an important emotion for all of us as it’s used to keep us safe. However, feeling excessive fear constantly or without a direct threat is a sign of heightened anxiety. If your friend or family member has become more fearful of seemingly benign situations or intensely dreads regular activities, this may be a sign of something bigger going on.

Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
Small, daily activities can build up and become huge stressors for people struggling mentally. It’s easy to say “I don’t want to pay my bills either, but I just deal with it.” However, if someone you know is avoiding or failing to do “simple” activities, they may be struggling with a mental health condition that makes those tasks infinitely harder. 

Withdrawing  or disinterest in social activities
Especially because of the stigma associated with mental illness, people who are struggling tend to withdraw within themselves and try to hide what’s really going on in fear of being judged. If your friend is usually chatty and outgoing but starts getting quiet and distant in social settings, they may be struggling internally.

Excessive irritability or anger
When someone is dealing with so much internally, even the smallest thing can push them to their limits. Not only are they trying to manage their significant mental health issues, but they likely are also trying to hide any signs of their struggle. That takes a lot of effort - often leaving little effort left for other daily irritants. If someone you know is getting set off by events that they normally would be fine with, considering talking to them about what else is going on in their life.


If you’re concerned about a friend or family member’s mental health, here are some tips on how to approach the subject. 

Written by Hannah Maine