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Spotting the Signs: How to Tell If Someone’s Struggling With Their Mental Health

Spotting the Signs: How to Tell If Someone’s Struggling With Their Mental Health

When it comes to mental health, there isn’t a catch-all test that determines if someone is going through a rough patch or not. So how do you spot if a friend, partner or colleague is feeling out of sorts?

We all react differently to the stresses and strains of daily life. But some people get more overwhelmed than others, and there are certain behaviours you can spot when trying to identify if someone is struggling with their mental health. 

If the person you’re worried about has been acting differently for more than a couple of weeks, it’s always worth checking in. Here are a few signs you can look out for when a friend doesn’t seem like themselves and you want to know if it’s worth having a conversation.

1. They become quiet and withdrawn. 

Often people struggling with poor mental health don’t want to talk about what they’re going through. They might feel like they’re burdening others with their problems and start to avoid any talk about how they’re doing. They might also fear appearing ‘weird’ or ‘odd’, or ashamed at the possibility of being labelled weak or needy. Because of this, they’ll choose to withdraw instead of acknowledging that there might be a problem.

The key thing to spot here is a shift in behaviour. If the friend who always kicks things off in the group chat hasn’t messaged in months, or your go-to party animal isn’t showing up to any social events, then there’s a chance they might not be okay. Withdrawing from conversations or avoiding discussion of their emotions could be a sign that something is going on behind closed doors and could do with being gently addressed.


2. They avoid social events or they frequently make excuses to leave.

There are always days when we don’t feel like attending after-work drinks or a birthday night out. But when your friend or loved one makes regular excuses to stay at home, or you notice a significant number of cancellations in their social calendar, it could be a sign that they’re finding these everyday gatherings too overwhelming to keep up with. This might include activities they previously loved, such as attending the gym regularly, music or art classes, or playing a sport. If they’ve stopped doing the things that bring them joy, then it could be because their mental health is preventing them from doing so.


3. They’re short-tempered and quick to anger.

Lashing out, whether verbally with abusive or aggressive language, or physically by punching walls or furniture or hitting their head for example, is a clear sign that they’re not coping with any stresses or issues they’re facing. 

Likewise, extreme mood swings from uncontrollable ‘highs’ and euphoria to destructive lows is a common sign of poor mental health. These might be triggered or exacerbated by substances like drugs or alcohol, and could lead to them self-medicating with these. If you notice your friend or partner starting to depend more on drink or drugs and experiencing violent mood swings, then monitor their behaviour and triggers and wait for the right moment to talk about it with them.

Note: If your loved one is being physically abusive, then there are various channels you can use to get help. Women’s Aid, Men’s Advice Line and Victim Support all offer live chat services and confidential helplines to get the support you need.


4. Performance at work starts to drop

Showing up late, missing important deadlines and appearing detached or dismissive at work usually suggests that there’s something else going on separate to day-to-day tasks. Often, a workplace will spot this quickly and might bring up talks about performance. If your colleague starts to present any of these signals, then take note and find a private moment with them to check in. 

There are lots of things that workplaces can do to improve mental wellbeing in staff and offer a safe space for people to open up when things get too much. One of these is getting training to become a Mental Health First Aider (see the site here). A MHFAider is taught to identify, understand and help those who may be experiencing mental health issues. They can empower people to seek support they might need, as well as listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis.

If you’re worried about colleagues, then recommending a mental health first aid training course to your wider team could make a massive difference. Having people on-hand to spot and speak about these signs before they get bigger ensures everyone on your team is being looked out for when times get tough. 


5. Using self-destructive language

Jokes about suicide, calling themselves worthless or ‘a failure’ or even openly joking about depression or other mental health problems is usually a good indicator that these comments are actually more than a joke to your friend or partner. 

If you find your loved one regularly making comments about not wanting to live, or using self-deprecating language around mental health and wellbeing, then don’t ignore it. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness could mean a person is having suicidal thoughts and urgent help is needed.


What do all these signs have in common? They show a significant change in someone’s behaviour. This is primarily what to look out for if you have your suspicions about a friend, spouse, colleague or family member. Social butterflies becoming quiet and reserved; dedicated employees being continually late all of a sudden; or just the feeling that someone has been acting off recently. Notice these changes, and get ready to check in.

What to do if you spot these signs?

It’s worth noting that when it comes to mental health issues, you can’t simply ‘fix’ someone. Just as words of encouragement won’t heal a broken leg, you cannot expect a quick or easy recovery for anyone struggling with a  mental health problem.

The best thing you can do is to be there for them, and to not attribute blame to whatever they’re feeling or going through. Everyone will want support at different times and in different ways, so ask your person what they need to to help them understand their mental health, and to recognise when they need additional help. Recognising that there's a problem is always the first step. Support might be as simple as coming with them to a doctor’s appointment, or providing a safe space at work where someone with anxiety can go to unwind.

Show you’re there for them by checking in regularly, and always find the right time to actively listen. Be persistent, particularly if you feel like your loved one doesn’t want to open up or is distancing themselves. Whilst it might feel like an uncomfortable conversation, just letting them know regularly that you care, and you’re there for them when they do want to talk is a step in the right direction. 

So much of mental health gets left unsaid, but one conversation could make a big difference in supporting someone on the road to recovery. Find the courage to start the conversation, and you’d be surprised at what a little bit of support could do for someone else’s life.

This November, we’re donating £1 from all of our sales of gummies to Mind, the mental health charity. To join us on this journey, show your support here at 

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1 comment

  • Nice r<ead


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