Behaviour change is key, this may be the more ‘typical’ signs such as:
- Seeming ‘sad’
- Lacking energy
- Loss of interest in day-to-day life
- Negative thoughts
- Low self-esteem
But it can also be less ‘typical’ signs such as:
- Feeling full of energy
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Eating too much or too little
- Having strict habits or routines around food
Just because someone may be showing one or more signs of the above does not mean that they are experiencing poor mental health but that they could be.
All of these are to be compared to the person’s ‘normal’ behaviour, e.g. a person sleeping 10+ hours isn’t unusual if the person normally sleeps for longer periods, whereas it would be unusual for a person who normally only sleeps 6 hours or less.
If we identify these changes in an individual then remember:
- Treat the person respectfully, they may not want to talk immediately, this is fine, we may need to come back at another point (if it is not safe to leave the person, contact emergency help)
- You are not the mental health professional and therefore you do not provide a diagnosis or counselling. You can signpost the person to find appropriate support if they wish.
- Be an active listener, make sure you don’t try to find a solution to their problems, but act in an empathic manner and avoid unhelpful phrases such as ‘ I know what you are going through’, ‘ it could be worse’, at least you have …
- Try to signpost the individual to a mental health first aider if these are available.