The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Jonah 2:5-7 (ESV)
Although various mental illnesses have different signs and symptoms, the four warning signs and symptoms this article will focus on are indicators that one may be developing a mental illness. It is important to note that these signs and symptoms may vary from person to person. When considering what is abnormal, it is essential to take into cognizance one’s culture and the accepted behavior in the society in which one lives. Having some of the symptoms listed below does not mean that you or your loved one has a mental illness. Sometimes, these symptoms may be indicators of other illnesses. It is important to rule out other possible explanations for the symptoms you or your loved one may be experiencing.
Four Warning Signs Of Mental Illness
A Change In Expressing Feelings
Any change in the way an individual expresses their feelings, such as a sudden outburst of anger or laughter for no reason, or a lack of concern for situations, even important ones, maybe an indicator that something is not right. For example, showing no expression of joy at the news of an awaited promotion, is not normal especially when the promotion was anticipated.
Changes In Thought Processes
This includes the inability to concentrate, disoriented to person, time, and place. The inability to make decisions or follow through on a plan. Taking significant financial and physical risks like spending all of one’s savings. Hearing voices, seeing people or things no one else can hear or see. Believing you are someone else or possess an ability that is not in keeping with reality. Excessive fear and paranoia that are inconsistent with one’s previous personality.
Changes In Mood
Changes in mood may include sadness that is unrelated to a recent event or circumstance, depression that lasts more than two weeks; this should not be confused with grieving. People who have lost a loved one, job, relationship, or possession can have low feelings for more than two weeks. It may also include a loss of interest in once enjoyed activities, loss of energy, or having very little energy.
Changes In Behavior
An individual may exhibit a sudden loss of personal hygiene, changes in eating habits; either begins to eat a lot or not at all resulting in excessive weight gain or weight loss. The use of substances or drugs, not sleeping for many days. Abnormal behaviors like excessive starring, maintaining an unusual posture, forgetfulness, avoiding social activities; even friends and family.
When King David pretended to be mad in the book of Samuel, he changed his appearance, became unkept, letting saliva run down his beard (1 Samuel 21:13).
What You Can Do When You Observe The Warning Signs
So, what do you do when you or someone shows some of the warning signs of mental illness mentioned earlier? Here are some things to consider.
It is important to listen well to those who may express to you the changes they may be experiencing in their behavior, thoughts, and emotions. It is imperative that you be nonjudgemental; let them know you are there for them. You don’t have to offer any advice. As Christians, we are always in a hurry to provide a scripture, pray for an immediate change in the situation without trying to find out more. If you are not a mental health professional, do not try to diagnose them or determine the cause of their symptoms. Let them know you are willing to stay it out with them, no matter how long it may be.
Assess The Immediacy Of The Situation
While lending a listening ear, assess the situation; is the individual in any form of danger to himself/herself or others? If yes, call the emergency mental health crisis unit. If the individual is not an immediate danger to him/herself or others, encourage the individual (which could be you) to consult with a mental health professional. The individual will be assessed, and other possible causes for the symptoms will be ruled out. It is common for Christians to go to the church for help. However, it is essential to know if your pastors have the knowledge and experience dealing with people with mental illnesses. Their knowledge and perception of mental illness will determine the help you will get for yourself or your loved one. If the individual is angry or confused, do not argue, threaten, or confront them, this can escalate the situation. Remember, talk less, listen more.
To understand better what you or your loved one may be going through, educate yourself by reading books, articles, and journals that contain information about the warning signs of mental illness. Although Internet search engines contain an enormous amount of information on mental health issues, they are not always reliable sources of information and should be used sparingly.
The symptoms of mental illness, like any other illness, sometimes lingers on even after commencing treatment. It is essential to work with a mental health professional to understand the likely cause of the presenting mental health condition. Some mental illnesses may not have a cure but could be managed; knowing this will help with setting recovery expectations. The road to recovery is usually like a marathon and will require the patience of both the individual and anyone concerned about the individual’s health.