The mental illness warning signs to be aware of

May 02, 2017
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Sometimes the hardest challenge when dealing with mental health is trying to understand what’s normal. The stress of uni might be getting you down, but is it just uni blues or is it more than that? If you are seeing any of these red flags in you or a friend, it might be a warning sign of a mental illness.

Withdrawing from friends, family and social activities

According to Beyond Blue, a warning sign in someone experiencing a mental illness is the unwillingness to be socially engaged with others. While most of us are guilty of cancelling plans, it becomes an issue when you no longer want to make plans or make an effort to see your closest friends and family. If you’re becoming disinterested in seeing anyone outside work and uni commitments, consider whether this is just due to being busy or whether it’s a deeper issue.

Letting worry and stress affect everyday life

Vikki Ryall, Head of Direct Clinical Services at Headspace, says it’s normal for young people to feel down and be stressed sometimes. She says over a longer period of time, it’s not so normal.

“Look out for changes that persist over weeks and weeks rather than a couple of days, and changes that are not obviously related to a one-off stressful event, such as an exam.”

If you’re feeling constantly anxious and stressed about little things, talk about it with someone you trust. Sometimes you might not realise it’s not a normal level of stress and talking to someone can put things in perspective. Like any warning sign, it’s important when you notice it to talk to a professional counsellor or psychologist as well.

Look out for changes that persist over weeks and weeks rather than a couple of days, and changes that are not obviously related to a one-off stressful event, such as an exam.

Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness

If you’re feeling like there’s no point and things won’t get better, Beyond Blue warns that these are common thoughts in people living with mental illness. Other feelings include feeling trapped, feeling like a burden, wanting to escape, feeling lonely or feeling guilty. If you see these signs in yourself or a friend, it might be time to seek help.

Alcohol or drug abuse

Binge-drinking has become ingrained in student culture, which is why it’s hard to know when it’s a problem relating to mental illness. Beyond Blue suggests you look more closely at your drinking habits:

“How often are you using drugs or alcohol? Can you have a good time without thinking that you need drugs or alcohol? Do you use drugs and alcohol to get away from something in your life?”

When you start to engage in risky behaviour with drugs and alcohol when you usually wouldn’t, there's a chance it could be linked to mental health problems.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, you can find help by seeking advice from a counsellor or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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