Millions of people in America are diagnosed with mental
health problems every year. Virtually all of these problems are treatable—yet
many people are afraid to speak up about their sufferings. They may feel
ashamed, or they may be in denial or unaware of their own behavior. It's
important to encourage someone to seek help if you have noticed one or more of
the warning signs listed here.
- A major change in personality. You may
feel that this person is not acting like himself or herself,
even though there's no obvious explanation for the change. Their grades might
suddenly drop, they might start hanging out with a new group of people, and so
- An inability to cope with daily activities and problems. The person has trouble making decisions, and
easily overreacts to things. He or she may feel unable to concentrate, focus,
or even sit still. You may find that this person cries often and is not dealing
well with school or work.
- Strange ideas and delusions. For
example, the person may mention hearing voices and may fear that
his or her mind is being controlled. He or she may perform certain routines
over and over throughout the day in order to feel safe.
- Extreme anxiety. The person may seem unusually worried, fearful, or even paranoid.
He or she may obsess over things that aren't very significant. You may also
notice that this person is afraid of being harmed and/or harming someone else.
- Prolonged depression and apathy. You may notice that this person seems very sad all
the time. He or she may talk about feeling worthless, guilty, or hopeless. If
some serious event has occurred, such as a bad break-up or a death, this person
may seem unable to get over it.
- Major changes in eating or sleeping habits. The person may sleep a lot or have
difficulty sleeping at all. He or she may be having nightmares. It's also a
problem if this person starts eating very little or not at all, or seems to be
vomiting or using laxatives in order to avoid gaining weight. The person may
obsessively diet and/or exercise, even if he or she is already very thin.
- An interest in suicide. This person may mention suicide, and may even talk
about feeling overwhelmed enough to consider suicide as a solution. Sometimes,
suicidal people show a notable lack of interest in the activities and people
they used to enjoy. They may also want to be alone all of the time.
- Extreme highs and lows. You may notice that the person's mood seems to change
quickly. One minute, he or she is incredibly energetic—but then the energy
vanishes a minute later. This person may feel that his or her thoughts are
either racing too quickly or moving too slowly.
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs. This can contribute to other problems, and can also be
a very serious problem all by itself.
- Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behavior. The person may get angry often, and
may lose his or her temper without much of a reason. He or she may treat other
people badly, and/or may always want to be doing things that are against the
law. This person may seem willing to behave in life-threatening ways.
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