Mental health problems can happen to anyone, at any time.
For most people this will only be for a short period, but some live with mental health issues for longer.
According to some estimates, one person in every four may have some form of mental health problem each year.
For as many as one person in every 50, this problem will be serious enough to affect their ability to work or to form and maintain personal relationships.
How to spot the signs
Mental health problems can take many forms. Here are some of the possible early signs:
- Losing interest in activities and tasks that were previously enjoyed.
- Poor performance at work.
- Mood swings that are very extreme or fast and out of character for you.
- Self-harming behaviour, such as cutting yourself.
- Changes in eating habits and/or appetite: over-eating, bingeing, not eating.
- Loss of, or increase in, sexual desire.
- Sleep problems.
- Increased anxiety, looking or feeling ‘jumpy’ or agitated, sometimes including panic attacks.
- Feeling tired and lacking energy.
- Isolating yourself, socialising less; spending too much time in bed.
- Wanting to go out a lot more, needing very little sleep, feeling highly energetic, creative and sociable, making new friends rapidly, trusting strangers or spending excessively – this may signal that you are becoming 'high'.
- Hearing and seeing things that others don't.
- Other differences in perception; for example, mistakenly believing that someone is trying to harm you, is laughing at you, or trying to take over your body.
These feelings can vary in severity and many find they pass quickly. But if they are particularly severe or long-lived, you may want to seek support.
Helping friends or family
The charity MIND advises that many people with mental health problems find it useful to have someone to talk to openly, so being available to listen is often the best way to help.
But sometimes people may find it easier to communicate with someone who's had a similar experience, or to a counsellor or therapist. The most important thing is to be supportive.
Information and help
There is no single guaranteed approach to recovering from a mental health problem. Ideally, you should be offered a range of support, so that you can find out which suits you best and enable you to develop coping strategies.
There are a range of possible suggestions on the MIND website.
As your first point of contact, consider making an appointment with your GP. Your doctor can suggest a range of treatments. depending on the nature of your difficulties.
- In England, find your local NHS service here
- In Wales, find your local Community Health Council here
0300 123 3393
01455 883 300
For Information about counselling and therapy. See also the sister website, itsgoodtotalk, for details of local practitioners.
0808 808 7777
Independent Information and support for carers.
0845 123 2320
Information and support for anyone affected by depression.
0114 271 8210
A support group providing information, support and understanding to people who hear voices and those who support them.
020 7931 6480
Support for people with bipolar disorder (including hypomania) and their families and friends.
0800 068 41 41
Advice for young people at risk of suicide.
08457 90 90 90
Emotional support for anyone feeling down, experiencing distress or struggling to cope.
There is a more extensive list on the NHS website.