Politicians and pundits tend to politicize mental health, but it should mostly be about helping people. Those who struggle with mental illness and mental health issues are all around you — 62 million people, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But you need to open your eyes a little wider to see the signs they might need therapy or another kind of professional help.
We reached out to our network of therapists to see what these signs are. Educate yourself so you can take care of the people you care about by gently guiding them towards therapy.
Not Enjoying Things They Used to Love
Let’s say you go skating with your best friend once a week. Over time, or perhaps suddenly, she is not interested. When you ask her why, she doesn’t know. She seems indifferent. Whether a crisis triggered this or not, it’s a sign she might need therapy. It’s better to start early on before there are more disruptions to the routine.
Breakups, Job Changes, Deaths in the Family and More
Therapists, counselors and coaches are not only for mentally ill people. People often need help navigating big changes in their life. It could be a bad breakup from an eight-year relationship, getting laid off, moving or losing a loved one. Your friends and family members might think seeking help is only for “crazy people.” It’s your job to break that stigma.
Increased Use of Substances
It doesn’t need to get to the point of obvious substance abuse for it to be a problem. If your friend who never drinks is now a regular at a bar, look out for her. Talkspace therapist and case manager at the Department of Veterans Affairs Rick Macnamara said these are clear signs the person needs help if it affects work or school.
Unhealthy Behavior on Social Media
Posting way too many selfies or crying for help on social media is more than an annoyance. It’s a sign someone might need professional help. Studies show social media exacerbates personality disorders and causes unnecessary stress.
Check out the Post-Breakup Guide to Social Media and Your Ex if you have a friend who is struggling with social media after a breakup.
They’re Getting Sick But Doctors Say They’re Fine
I struggled with physical symptoms for years before realizing they were a result of mental illness. Doctors told me I was fine, so I didn’t seek further treatment. If you know someone with a similar story, tell them to consider mental health treatments. They might not know mental illness can have physical consequences doctors won’t be able to diagnose. Your education could be what saves them!
There’s a difference between being introverted and isolating oneself. People don’t have to go out all the time, but it’s a troubling sign when they make an effort to ensure they are alone and disconnected.
Signs Children Need a Therapist
Children grow into healthier adults if they learn it’s OK to get help and talk about their problems. Issues such as trouble concentrating, negative self-talk, unusual or sudden fear, nervousness, detachment from others, hopeless statements about the future and irritability or sleep disturbances can be signs, according to Talkspace therapist Jennifer K. Fuller Gerhart, LPC, NCC.
Making situations seem like they are only about them or being unable to let things go are also signs for children, said therapist Cynthia Stocker, LCSW.
Now What? – Become a Voice for Mental Health and Help the Ones You Love
Whether it’s Mental Health Week or celebrity-sponsored campaigns such as Be Vocal, there are dozens of ways for you to spread awareness about mental illness and health. If these efforts reach and affect even one person who needs help, you’ve made a huge difference.
If a friend or family member is showing one of these signs, it’s time to gently guide them towards therapy. It might be the greatest gift you ever give them.