Paul Abraham: Being aware of mental health issues

24 May 2020

By Bramley’s Paul Abraham, of www.headingonwards.com

With the effect of the coronavirus and ‘lockdown’ the statistics of approximately one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year are sure to rise.

In England alone, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression in any given week.

While we have to look after our own mental health wellbeing, we also need to keep checking that our family and friends are coping with the added pressures of these worrying and difficult times.

This article is a brief guide on being aware of mental health issues, either your own or someone you know. 

The following, are common signs that someone OR yourself may be beginning to suffer from mental health issues and shows tips of how to handle the situation.

In Younger Children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (ie refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

In Older Children and Pre-Teens:

  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Changes in ability to manage responsibilities – at home and/or at school
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In Adults, Young Adults and Teenagers:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments

How can I help someone with mental health issues?

  • Speak openly and honestly about your concerns
  • Give the person opportunities to talk to you about their feelings
  • Let the person know you are concerned about them and are willing to help
  • If the person doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you, encourage them to discuss how they are feeling with someone else
  • Treat the person with respect and dignity
  • Do not blame the person for their illness
  • Offer consistent emotional support and understanding
  • Give the person hope for recovery

What doesn’t help someone with mental health issues?

  • Telling them to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’
  • Being hostile or sarcastic
  • Being over-involved or over-protective
  • Nagging
  • Trivialising a person’s experience by pressuring them to ‘put a smile on their face,’ to ‘get their act together’ etc.,
  • Belittling or dismissing the person’s feelings by saying things like ‘You don’t seem that bad to me.’
  • Speaking in a patronising tone of voice
  • Trying to cure the person or come up with answers to their problems.

Remember that this is only a short guide to help detect mental health issues and always aim to get professional advice should you or someone you know start showing signs of mental health issues. 

The important thing is to talk about the issue, it is not a show of weakness discussing your mental health. In fact it is a show of strength in realising that you’re not in the best of health and are looking for ways to improve your mental health fitness.

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