Ways to Recognize a Mental Health Issue

It is essential to understand how to spot the signs of a developing mental health problem and moreover, seek timely professional help

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There has been an influx of mental health statistics in India, painting a grim picture of the mental health landscape. According to the National Mental Health Survey, 2016, 10.6per cent of the Indian population is currently in need of mental health assistance – that is 15 crore citizens. The troubling fact is that only 20% of people who need help actually receive it. There are various factors that come into play when it comes to lack of receiving help, like the dearth of professionals in the field and stigma around mental health problems.


Another big one is the lack of awareness about mental health. People don’t realise that they are undergoing a mental health problem, or someone they know well might be “behaving funny” due to deeper ongoing issues. Mental health problems can’t be seen as physical injuries on the body, neither is there a test for their detection. At such times, it helps to know what a developing mental health concern looks like, so we don’t further exacerbate the problem and get the person the help they need. Following are some of the signs to watch out for in order to seek timely assistance:

Change in behaviour:

One of the biggest tell-tale signs of a mental disorder is a change in a person’s behaviour. For instance, a previously quiet person becomes extra talkative; someone losing interest in making any interactions and withdrawing completely – staying at home, making minimal conversation. It could also be something like being unable to regulate their mood – getting angrier or sadder in reaction to the tiniest trigger. This is not to say that angry or quiet or loquacious people have mental disorders. The key is in recognising that they are behaving in a manner that was previously unlike them.


One tends to become more forgetful, has trouble paying attention or following things through. Alternately, one may become too involved in the details and lose focus of the larger picture. Either way, there is often a visible impact on hygiene, organisation, memory, and/or attention. Losing track during conversations, inability to remember things, becoming extra organised or completely disorganised, etc. are often signs of mental or emotional turmoil.

Change in sleep and appetite:

Most often, there is a marked change in sleep patterns and eating habits. One may find it hard to fall asleep, or to stay asleep. Dreams may be especially disturbing or vivid too, leaving a person feeling tired all the time. Conversely, someone may take to sleeping long hours, and feel drowsy all the time. Additionally, people tend to eat more than usual, or completely lose appetite. A visible sign is someone who has put on or lost a lot of weight – not through the effort of exercise/diet.


It is perfectly human to respond emotionally to situations in our life. All experiences – positive and negative – impact our mental health. However, it becomes a cause for concern if “episodes” of changed behaviour/difficulty managing emotions impact a person every now and again, clearly affecting their work, social life, and health.


Similarly, while sorrow, anger, fear to grip us all from time to time, their intensity varies from situation to situation. Someone’s mental health may not be optimal if they experience these emotions rather deeply, more often than usual. Additionally, the intensity of their reactions may not proportionate to the situations, overall affecting each aspect of their life.


Lastly, how long these “episodes” last is another consideration while trying to gauge if someone’s mental health is affected. Longer lasting emotional responses to situations, or an absolute lack of emotions is another sign that someone may be in need of help.

Loss of touch with reality:

Increased fear, paranoia, inability to trust those who were previously trusted, alternative experiences – a person may start hearing voices or reacting to stimuli not experienced by others around them; one may hold false believes despite all evidence against these ideas – these are also signs of mental illness.

While these are the basic areas that get affected in a person’s life, it is highly detrimental to a person’s well-being to assume that they have a mental health problem, and label them with terms we hear floating around. Diagnosis can only be made by a professional, the main purpose being identifying the method of treatment, and helping the person and their loved ones support them through a better understanding of their problem. It is essential to understand how to spot the signs of a developing mental health problem and moreover, seek timely professional help.