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Know the Signs: How to Help Someone Who Has Mental Illness

Mental health issues plague millions of Americans and the number is only increasing by the day. According to People, 1 in every 5 adults suffers from mental illness each year. In all honesty, these conditions are incredibly common even though they do not manifest physically, but society still vilifies them.

The potential stigmatization that will come their way if they open up makes lots of people suffer in silence, a stand that this media outlet seeks to change. The amazing folks at People Magazine have launched an initiative dubbed Let’s Talk About It, with the aim being to normalize mental illness and be regarded in the same way as other illnesses.

Dan Wakeford is People Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief and is at the forefront of the Let’s Talk About It initiative

A Much Better Place

With stories from both celebrities and ordinary citizens, the initiative hopes to create as much awareness about mental health and hopefully realize its dream. The world would be a much better place if people didn’t have to battle their demons alone, right?

As is the case with all other illnesses, recognizing a mental health condition is the initial step in the healing process. However, experts in this field agree that mental illness can be tricky to spot. Stephen Schueller, a psychological science assistant professor, says that for starters, we should observe for major behavior, motivation, and interest shifts.

Speaking to People, Schueller says that these shifts may manifest in the form of no longer taking part in things that you or someone else used to enjoy, being socially awkward, and significant changes in how you or another party spends their time.

Check for social awkwardness in previously social individuals

Brandon Staglin, another expert in the field, being the president of a famed mental health research group, says that sometimes the warning signs of severe mental health conditions manifest as early as in adolescence. For others, they come in early adulthood.

Signs to look out for in adolescents include an inexplicably worsening school performance, withdrawal from previously enjoyable activities, and keeping to themselves for previously social kids.

In young adults, the signs are more or less the same, with underperformance showing at work with no concrete reason behind it. Distancing themselves from loved ones is also something that should sound alarm bells in your mind.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

Crisis Text Line’s Ashley Womble is a counselor, and she advises that the first step towards talking to someone about a suspected mental health condition is to not beat around the bush. Ask the person you are concerned about if they feel okay, then proceed to explain to them why you’re worried.

Womble argues that it is much easier for you to initiate the conversation for them as it is often difficult for the suffering individual to speak out. All the same, make sure that you hold this conversation in an environment where the individual feels safe.

Initiate the conversation, making sure that it’s in a safe environment

Staglin happens to be both a mental health expert and a victim, admitting that he suffers from schizophrenia. For him, his first warning sign was the complete loss of interest in his hobbies. An 18-year-old Staglin loved playing video games and reading, all of which slowly became uninteresting.

Instead, he would rather keep to himself to the point that whenever he needed to go anywhere, he’d opt to drive himself to keep away from human interaction. He credits these changes to anxieties surrounding his worth as a person, and the struggle that defining himself as a coming-of-age adult was. Talking things out with his dad helped a lot though.

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