Therapists Reveal Red Flags To Look Out For In Your Mental Health

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Mental health is a very serious issue that many of us tend to take lightly, which is the MOST serious issue of all. Mental health is just as imperative as physical health. We must pay attention to our own feelings and to those around us. Humanity forgets that we are suppose to be looking out for one another. Sometimes all anybody needs is a hug or a smile. Just be seen or heard can make the biggest difference.

Redditor _DirtyAngelToes wanted the mental health professionals to help us all out by wondering... _Therapists/Psychologists of Reddit, what is a big red flag that many people don't look out for in regards to mental health?

PAY ATTENTION TO BEHAVIOR...

I am a crisis counselor and we receive pretty extensive training in this. A lot of people overlook two things: drastic change in appearance and wanting to give your things to people for free. These two things often preclude suicide, but people chalk it up to wanting a change and generosity.

DON'T BE TOO LATE...

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The big red flag I see, in regards to mentally unhealthy people, is if they don't have anyone around them that's both mentally healthy AND good at active/respectful, listening.

I've worked with lots of mentally unhealthy kids - Kids with panic attacks. Kids with PTSD from being abused or raped. Kids with anxiety issues. Kids with depression. A common thread is not that they never said anything, but they often did, and were told they were being dramatic/being an attention whore/over exaggerating/making something out of nothing/being ungrateful for their good life/following the trend/just being bitter/just being jealous. They were told these things by the people who are supposed to protect them - friends, counselors, teachers, parents, relatives. Eventually they stop saying anything until they implode, and their problems are too big for anyone to ignore.

Don't wait until someone's screaming or throwing themselves off a cliff to take them seriously.

JUST TRY HARDER????

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My mother told me I wasn't trying hard enough to feel better. I became bipolar depressive in the 9th grade and gave up at that point because I obviously wasn't good enough and that's just how life was.

ATTENDANCE IS KEY...

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Stopping attending things like classes or functions.

Having a change in your ability to focus. Issues with sleep.

IT TAKES TIME...

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The biggest one I've seen in my personal and professional life is the swift change in mood/personality. Someone who has been otherwise depressed or withdrawn is suddenly much brighter, laughing more, talking about how good things are. They might even make plans for the future like trips or going back to school. In my line if work, they'll often start engaging more in their treatment plan or create new goals for themselves. It's very misleading, but if you know the person like you should, you'll most likely pick up on this change as a suicide risk rather than genuine improvement. It doesn't just happen that fast, unfortunately.

ISOLATION...

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Clinical social worker here. For most people, I think the two most common ones I see are increased isolation and changes in sleep patterns (either sleeping excessively or hardly at all).

EVERYTHING IS FINE...

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This is one for you to watch out for in yourself, but when your daily life only includes the bare minimum of getting by. You cook, clean, go to work, but you're not really doing anything fun or exciting or engaging. Maybe all you're cooking is what's easiest, your house/apartment isn't dirty, but also isn't clean, and you just eke out your work day. Everything is fine, but nothing is good.

This is the stage that often comes before total loss in interest. Nothing is wrong yet, but there is a chance that it's coming.

CALM DOWN...

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Often over-reactions are a sign of someone with a lot of internal built-up pressure. Usually they vent all of that emotional trouble in their reaction to something small, hugely out of proportion. People often overlook that as being symptomatic of deeper issues but instead chalk it up to an aggressive or impatient personality.

WE NEED YOU...

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Feeling like a burden to those around you, physical and/or mental pain, hopeless that things will change.

TRY TO STAY POSITIVE...

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If someone goes through a period of depression and comes out of it feeling elated watch out because they could be feeling suicidal. Where there sense of elation is do to the fact that they are elated that they finally found a way out of their misery.

EVERYTHING IS OK!

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A lot of people put on a persona of _"everything's ok" or _"I have my stuff together" when underneath they are struggling. There might be inconsistencies in what people say and their body language/what they do. It's pretty common e.g. in postnatal depression. Being interested and asking how people really are is a great start to the conversation about what's really going on.

WHERE AM I?

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Constant time displacement/ confusion. Don't remembering very well or forgetting the general notion of time, forgets birthdays, don't know what day is it... something like that.

NOT BEING THERE...

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The only thing I haven't really seen on here yet is substance abuse. While the really clear signals are easy to see, sometimes it can be more subtle. Non-typical missing appointments with ever shifting excuses, sudden changes in behavior, sleeplessness, "not being there" can all be concern for concern. One of them being substance use.

GENERALIZATIONS...

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Watch out for the generalizations or exaggerations you tell yourself:

"The whole day is ruined!"

"I'm a shitty person."

"Every day is exactly the same."

"I'm the ugliest person ever."

"If I don't [x] then I'll never be truly happy."

These are usually cognitive distortions. They're normal, but irrational and harmful. Notice when you're doing them. It's usually when they start coming up multiple times in a day that you need some therapy to help challenge them.

CHANGE ISN'T ALWAYS GOOD...

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When they stop to do things they like. For example going to the gym, to concerts or generally listen to the music they liked before. Heading straight to depression-island my friend.

TAKE NOTES...

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I'm a little late, but hopefully someone will find this useful. Here are some bullet points, but they are not by any means exhaustive and instead of a mixture of theories in the field and my own experience. I recently lost an old friend to suicide and I work in mental health where I assess risk routinely. It's incredibly hard to spot when it is out of context, but my advice based on my career and my experience would be to notice the following;

  • Cutting off contact for no apparent reason.
  • Attempting contact after a period of no contact.
  • Upheaval in their life (calamity with job, relationship, health or finance)

What to do?

  • Listen (if you feel able, this isn't always easy if you are close to the person)
  • Gently suggest a visit or call to, GP, suicide support services.
  • Let them know your positive feelings about them.
  • Involve friends / family who are sympathetic to the situation.
  • Encourage them to engage with therapy if that is an option.
  • Help them put together a hope box, a shoe box or similar filled with items that are mementos of happier times, photographs of trips, something their child made, affirmations from work, etc. They can then use this to look at when the thoughts get most intense, which is going to be usually when they are alone.

I'm basing some of this information on Clinical Risk Assessment and Interpersonal Theory of Suicide. As they say an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. To that end at the wake of my departed friend, I instigated a pact with the (many) friends of that group. If we ever felt like we would hurt ourselves, we would contact another (or all) members of the group to let them know how we felt before we did anything. The one thing that stuck with us is that our friend who took their own life at no point asked for help and if they had, things may have been different.

KEEP GOING...

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Crisis therapist here... stopping medication because you're _"feeling better." _Mental health is not a virus.

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