How do I spot if my friend is suffering with mental health issues?

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Stacey Foster

Mind has launched an inquiry into impact coronavirus has had on children’s mental health in schools.

The mental health charity will examine young people’s experiences in secondary schools in England between September 2020 and March 2021 to try to find out what can be done to improve the mental wellbeing of pupils.

Two-thirds of young people responding to Mind’s survey said their mental health had deteriorated during the lockdown, and nearly half faced difficulty in accessing support.

The charity has provided ITV News with some top tips about how to spot if your friend is going through a difficult time or struggling to deal with their emotions.

Top tips from Mind if you're worried about a friend's mental health

What are the signs someone might be struggling?

During these difficult moments, different people can react in different ways so it can be tough knowing how to act.

Some of the telltale signs people might act different could be:

  • seeming distant, or not themselves

  • not meeting up or responding to messages as much as normal

  • spending more time on their own

  • not chatting, smiling or laughing as much

  • showing lower self-esteem

  • talking about feelings that worry you, or saying 'I can't do it any more'

  • not doing things they normally like

  • crying or shouting

  • smoking, drinking, or using drugs when they didn't before

When it comes to the physical changes you might notice, these could include:

  • not dressing like they used to

  • gaining or losing weight

  • eating too much or too little

  • unable to concentrate

  • looking tired

  • not washing or taking care of themselves

  • hurting themselves on purpose

How can I help my friend?

It can be difficult to approach your friend to talk about such a sensitive matter. Just letting your friend know you are there for them is a good way to start and letting them know you are there for them if they need to talk.

However, some people may not want to talk about the pressures they are facing at that particular time. Try not to pressure them. It could take time but they should open up to someone when they are ready to talk.

In the meantime, try doing the things you both enjoy together and letting your friend know you are there if they need to chat.

Mental health problems can affect every aspect of a person’s life. It’s crucial that people seek help to manage depressive symptoms and are able to access services when they need them to prevent further deterioration in their health

Mark Winstanley, Rethink Mental Illness

What if I am worried about a friend’s safety?

If you are concerned a friend might be in danger, it is important you do not deal with the situation alone.

Telling a trusted adult, like a parents or teacher, can help in these situations. Your friend may have asked you not to tell, but if their safety is at risk, you will be doing the right thing.

In case of an emergency, call 999 to contact the relevant emergency service or take them to hospital.

With schools reopening for the first time since March, it is important you look out for your friends. Credit: PA

How do I start to look after myself?

It’s OK to feel shocked, angry and upset from time to time and it’s really important to look after yourself.

To help get you through these difficult time, you could:

  • Try not to take on too much – supporting someone on your own can be tough.

  • Try to encourage them to reach out to other people they trust too, like their family, teachers or other adults they are close to.

  • Set boundaries – like letting them know what support they can expect from you, so you can draw a line at how much you can do for your friends and when.

  • Think about how it affects you – if supporting your friend becomes overwhelming, or starts affecting your mood, sleep, or eating, it's important to let them know you have to take some time for yourself.

  • Look after your wellbeing – remember to take time for yourself and do things that help you relax. See our information on looking after your wellbeing for tips on things you can try.

  • Talk about your own feelings with someone you trust - if you want to talk things over confidentially, Childline and The Mix both have counsellors you can speak to.

Emily Graham, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer for Mind, said: “It can be really difficult to know how to approach a friend who you think might have a mental health problem. You might worry that you’ll upset them more by addressing the issue.

“But talking can make such a difference, and just being there to listen is really important. Try to find a quiet place to have the conversation. And don’t worry about what to say – what your friend needs to hear is that you care, and that they’re not alone.

“Make sure you encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult like a parent, teacher or GP, and look after yourself too. It’s okay to suggest they find more support, and you can find lots of helpful resources on Mind’s website.”

Who else can I talk to?

There are multiple charities, including Mind, who are here to help. Below is a list of a few websites along with phone numbers of different charities who you can talk to.

Mind: 0300 123 3393

Samaritans: 116 123

YoungMinds: 0808 802 5544

Calm: 0800 58 58 58