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5 min read
3rd April 2020

Worried About Someone's Mental Health?

If you are worried about a relative of friends mental health, which may well be heighten in these extraordinary times where we are all asked to stay at home and we have less access to our support network. It also can be hard to recognise the signs.

Mental health issues are more common than many people think. It is estimated that 1 in 4 of us will be affected at some time by a mental illness.

What signs should I look out for?

  • Anxious or irritable
  • Mood swings
  • Seeming withdrawn
  • Self-harming
  • Saying or doing unusual things
  • Struggling to cope with work or studies
  • Problems with concentration or memory

What can i do to help?

Encourage them to talk to a specialist- GP, and offer them support by telling them:

  • Your here and want to listen 
  • GP's have mental health training and can help
  • Offer to go with them
  • GP'S keep information confidential and will only share information with your permission
  • Most mental health issues can be treated

What will happen if they visit their GP?

The GP might prescribe medication, offer talking therapy or suggest lifestyle changes. They could also refer them to a specialist team if they think they are affected by a more serious condition.

How to prepare for your GP visit

  • Check if there is a GP at the practice with a mental health interest
  • Ask for a double appointment 
  • Write down your feelings and symptoms
  • Make a list of any questions you have 
  • Take a trust family member or friend with you

Is there anything I can do if they don't want help?

You can't force anyone to get help, but you can contact there GP for them, talk with the GP about their symptoms and behaviour the GP can then decide if they need to take action.

If you think they are a risk to themselves or other, the NHS and social service may get involved.

  • Call NHS direct on 111
  • If you think they are an immediate risk to themselves or others call 999

What can they do to help themselves?

Talk about it

Being open about mental health may seem scary to them, but a family member or a friend will normally be happy to listen. If they don't want to speak to someone they know then they could contact a support line to talk to a skilled listener, or join a support group to meet other people who have similar issues and will understand.

Other things they can do:

  • Exercise / get outdoors even if its just for a walk
  • Breathing exercises
  • Learning ways to relax, such as meditation
  • Yoga
  • Eating healthy foods regularly
  • Have a daily routine to give your life more structure
  • Get enough sleep
  • Keep a mood diary to be more aware of your symptoms
  • Do something creative like writing, art or music
  • Meet people at a local club or society
  • Volunteering

What types of mental illness are there?

There are many types of mental illness some of the most common are:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Psychosis & Schizophrenia
  • Personality Disorders


Is a low mood disorder. We all feel down at times, but if these feelings last and get in the way of their life, then they may have depression.


The most common symptoms that someone may have depression are:

  • Feeling sad or irritable
  • Feeling less able to do things
  • Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed
  • Becoming tired easily, losing concentration
  • Sleeping and eating less or more
  • Low self-esteem, feeling guilty and worthless
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide 

They may have some of the symptoms listed above and not others, but any of them could mean they have depression. If they have any symptoms described above then it's a good idea to get them to visit their GP.


Stress can makes a person feel like they are under too much pressure (mental or emotional), it can feel like they have the whole world on their shoulders. It affects us all at various points but if your under stress for long periods, it can damage your mental health. Lots of things can cause the stress such as money & relationship problems, unemployment, physical illness or going through a life event such as moving home.


The most common symptoms that someone is suffering from stress:

  • Irritability
  • Racing or obsessive thoughts
  • Being forgetful, not concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sweating and dizziness
  • Headaches or muscle pain
  • Dry mouth, shortness of breath
  • Fast heartbeat

If they have any of these symptoms and they are causing them long-term problems, it is a good idea to get them to speak to their GP.

Please not that alcohol doesn't reduce stress, it actually stimulates release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is where a person feels worried, fearful or nervous. Please remember it is natural to be anxious but if the feelings don't go away, get worse or have no particular cause then they could become a problem 


With many different types of anxiety such as panic attacks, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Common symptoms are:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of dread
  • Irritability
  • Sleep and appetite problems
  • Fast breathing / heartbeat
  • Hot flushes or blushing
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • Dizziness and fainting 
  • Stomach aches and sickness

Talking therapy can really help with anxiety either one-to-one or group. If they have any symptoms described above then it's a good idea to get them to visit there GP.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar can be severe, affecting all aspects of their life. Each mood can last a short time, or for weeks and months. It can make their mood change dramatically from feeling depressed to being over-active (known as mania). Bipolar disorder is more than just normal mood swings. It can cause extreme, often distressing, changes in mood.


Symptoms of depression can include:Symptoms of mania can include:
Feeling sad or irritableFeeling energetic or restless
Lack of energy or interest in lifeIrritability
Sleeping and eating less or moreTalking quickly
Low self-esteemMaking impulsive decisions
Losing interest in sexBeing sexually promiscuous 
Thoughts of self-harm/suicideBeing argumentative or aggressive 


They could be prescribed antidepressants or mood stabilisers. They might also benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy, or psycho-education to help about managing their symptoms.

If they have any of these symptoms and they are causing them long-term problems, it is a good idea to get them to speak to their GP.

Psychosis & Schizophrenia

Psychosis can lead to disturbing thoughts, or hearing and seeing things that aren't there. Schizophrenia also severely affects the way you think - but it does not mean having a split personality. There are no clear causes, but family issues, drug & alcohol abuse, genes and stress are all thought to play a part.


People with psychosis can lose touch with reality, showing symptoms that include:

  • Hallucinations: Seeing things and hearing voices that aren't real
  • Delusions: Believing things that aren't true, like imagining you're being followed
  • Disturbing and confusing thoughts
  • Not realising something is wrong

People with schizophrenia also experience these symptoms, along with other such as:

  • Lack of motivation and interest
  • Slow movement
  • Sleep disruption
  • Low sex drive
  • Less interest in socialising 

If they have any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to get them to speak to their GP.

Personality Disorders

It can make the person feel, think and behave differently to most other people. And when their feelings are irrational and distressing, it can become a serious problem. A personality disorder may sit alongside other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.


The most common condition is borderline personality disorder and the main symptoms are: 

  • Highly changeable mood
  • Extreme reactions to feeling abandoned
  • Unstable relationships
  • Confused feelings about who you are
  • Being impulsive and reckless
  • Self-harming, suicidal threats or behaviour
  • Anger
  • Paranoid thoughts

If they display any of these symptoms it is a good idea to get them to speak to their GP.

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