R U OK? Warning signs your loved ones are struggling

Sep 09, 2021
There are many ways to support a loved one struggling with mental illness. Source: Pexels (model posed for picture).

Mental health issues are common among Australians aged 16 to 85. In fact, according to Beyond Blue, one in seven Australians have experienced a mental health issue in their lifetime.

We all want to look out for our loved ones, but when it comes to mental illness, it can be difficult when you don’t know what to look for. Maybe your loved one is telling you they are tired on a daily basis or they’re experiencing mood swings more often.

Even though these behaviours may seem normal, they can be associated with mental health issues, which is why it’s important to know the most common warning signs, so you can appropriately support your loved ones.

What are the warning signs?

Dr Kieran Kennedy told Starts at 60 in 2020 that one of the most common warning signs of mental illness is if your loved one seems more down than usual.

“Common changes that might signal mental health struggles can include someone being more isolative than usual, or clearly more down, irritable, angry or tense than their usual,” he said.

It’s crucial to understand that even though it’s completely normal to feel sad every so often, it’s not normal for these behaviours to last a long time. If you notice long-term changes, it’s time to ask the big question: R U OK?

Not only can irritation, anger and sadness indicate a mental health struggle, your loved ones might also suffer from sleep problems or appetite changes.

“Persistent changes to someone’s sleeping regime should always signal checking in. Depression can often change a person’s appetite — any significant change here needs a check up with a doctor,” Kennedy says.

Some other warning signs may include:

  • Unable to concentrate
  • Less interested in appearance and personal hygiene
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Lonely or lacking self-esteem
  • Confused or irrational

What can you do to help?

If reading these warning signs makes you concerned for a loved one, there are a few things you can do to properly support them. You can:

  • Listen to them
  • Ask them what you can do to help
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle
  • Encourage them to seek professional support

These are just some of the simple tasks you can do to help a loved one who is struggling. The most significant part of caring for a loved one is to listen and be open-minded.

You never know what someone is going through, so always be kind and don’t be afraid to ask if someone is OK.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Are you OK?

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