When it comes to mental health, so many of us may be suffering silently because we don’t want to be considered a “nuisance”, or perhaps we don’t think our feelings are a big enough deal. Labels can create a stigma around certain things like mental health, and we at Recess believe that the more we talk about it the less alone we will feel. Struggling with a mental illness is extremely common.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “mental illnesses are common in the United States – nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (52.9 million in 2020).”
There are two different forms of mental illness:
- Any Mental Illness (AMI)
- Serious Mental Illness (SMI)
AMI is defined as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder. The degree of AMI can vary ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment in some cases.
SMI is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that results in a serious functional impairment. This typically interferes with and/or limits major life activities daily.
Justine Carino is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and the founder of Carino Counseling, and she breaks down the signs to look out for when someone you know may be experiencing mental health struggles.
Signs someone may be struggling with their mental health:
- Prolonged isolation. You may notice they aren’t socializing and it’s for more than just needing some time alone or downtime. You may notice they are consistently canceling plans or rejecting your outreach to see them.
- A change in the level of communication you used to have with them. All of a sudden you feel like you never hear from them or they are not as open about their life with you as before.
- They report issues with sleep such as sleeping way too much or too little.
- They make statements about feeling overwhelmed, wanting to give up, and feeling hopeless or worthless.
- They appear to be having difficulty managing their emotions. They may be crying more frequently, easily irritable, angrier, or aggressive.
- They have become more impulsive with making decisions or begin to make choices that seem out of character for them.
- They are using substances more often and excessively. People often use substances to numb their emotions when struggling with them.
Some other signs to consider include suicidal thinking, altered sex drive, extreme feelings of guilt, and detachment from reality.
There is always a way to help especially if you notice any of these telling signs. Carino offers the following ways to be active and a good support system.
Ways to help them:
- Be brave. Have a conversation with them that you have noticed some changes in them, share the differences you’ve noticed, and ask them directly how they are feeling.
- Talk to them without judgment. Don’t make statements about what they “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing to cope or how what they are/aren’t doing is making things worse. This is not what they need to hear from you (or anyone) right now.
- Normalize the use of professional mental health support. Encourage that they find a therapist that they can talk to about what is going on and ways they can cope. Connect them to any resources you may have.
- Ask them what they need from you. Be aware that what you think they need and what they actually want from you might be two different things.
Most importantly, know your limits when helping someone in need. Don’t feel you need to solve the problem; the best thing you can do is listen and encourage them to seek help from a professional. Below are a list of resources.
Good Therapy: https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
Mental Health First Aid: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/