Throughout life we experience numerous developing stages as we age. From birth, we explore a range of emotions and start learning about our limitations as humans. These lessons continue as we progress into childhood. As we grow older we may learn to slow down and let others take on more responsibility for us, which can be challenging for many. One of the most difficult stages in life is adolescence. During this stage, from ages 10 to 20, we experience an accelerated physical, emotional, and psychological growth. There is a lot of pressure on teenagers and young adults to start finding themselves, determine life goals, and make career defining choices.
It is normal to be concerned for a loved one going through any difficult stage in their life. With the many challenges they face, emotions run high and relationships can be tested. These individuals may start acting differently than you are accustomed to, which is completely normal as they are entering a new stage in their life. But what if their words or actions start to become concerning? In this blog we discuss the early signs of mental illness, and when to seek help for yourself or a loved one.
MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS
What are mental health disorders? Mental health disorders are conditions that are brought on by abnormal activity in our brain affecting one’s thinking, emotions, and behaviours. Many individuals experience an issue with their mental health at some point in their life. There are over 200 diagnoses, and you may have heard of the more openly discussed ones such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia and dementia. Young adults aged 18-25 years are at most risk of developing a mental health disorder (NIMH).
There are many causes of mental health disorders. Not only can an individual experience these disorders from genetics, they can also be brought on by external events which cause stress or trauma. An individual may be more susceptible to a mental health disorder if it runs in their family, and may not be triggered until the individual has faced a traumatic experience. Someone who doesn’t have a family history of mental health disorders may still acquire a disorder such as post traumatic stress if they experience a stressful life situation, or they may experience an injury that affects the brain. Mental heath disorders are so common that roughly 1 in 5 adults experience it in any given year (Mayo Clinic). What signs can you look for in yourself or a loved one so they may seek the assistance they may need?
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF MENTAL ILLNESS
Symptoms of a mental health disorders may vary depending on the disorder the individual is experiencing. Some of these signs include but are not limited to:
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty with sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feeling numb and lack of emotions or experience severe mood swings
- Helplessness and hopelessness
- Intrusive thoughts
- Inability to perform everyday tasks
- Thinking of harming yourself or someone else
- Physical symptoms such as stomach pain, back pain, and headaches
Some of these signs are harder to recognize than others. As such, it is important to be more observant of the individual who you are concerned about – and that includes someone who is concerned for their own well-being. An individual who is experiencing a mental heath disorder may show only a few of these signs. If it helps, keep a journal of your experiences with this individual, it may help you determine if they are in need of some time off work with friends, or if it is a more serious problem. If you have determined that you or your loved one is experiencing a mental disorder, there are a number of ways to seek assistance.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP
If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health disorder, there are multiple ways in which to seek treatment. You could start by having an open and honest discussion with them about your concerns. Forcing them to seek help is never the answer but you offering encouragement and your support may mean a lot to them.
If you believe you or a loved one are in immediate danger of hurting yourself or someone else, please contact one of the below Canadian numbers to seek immediate treatment:
Emergency – 911
Suicidality – 1-800-784-2433
Local Crisis Line – 310-6789
Kids Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868
If you do not believe you or a loved one are in immediate danger, there are professional treatment options available. Speaking with a professional therapist or counsellor about life experiences and your emotional journey can help provide a safe and non-judgemental outlet to express your concerns. There are also residential treatment options if you or a loved one feel a more in-depth approach to mental health is needed.
Whether you or a loved one are seeking professional help, spending more time on yourself can be one of the first steps towards caring for your mental health. You may find an outlet through art, exercise, journaling, or learning a new hobby such as baking or horse riding.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to seeking assistance for mental health, but a professional therapist or counsellor can help guide you towards coping mechanisms that help you overcome your negative thoughts or feelings. These professionals are there to help you no matter what you are going through.
Life is difficult, no matter your education, class, or income. We face many challenges as we grow from children to adults, and many of us experience a mental health disorder. It is important to remember that you are not alone, and there is help if you seek it. It is not easy to care for a loved one with mental health concerns, but your support means more to them than you may know. If you would like to discuss mental health disorders with our team or talk to a professional for more information, please contact us HERE.