Recognising Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness

June 8, 2023

Following on from the BDA’s initial introductory article which highlighted the need for wider consideration of mental health issues in the drilling industry, this next piece will focus on recognising signs and symptoms of mental health issues.

Mental health illnesses can vary from Anxiety & Depression to disorders such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder, these rarely appear “out of the blue.” Most often family, friends, colleagues or individuals themselves begin to recognise small changes or a feeling that “something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings or behaviour before an illness appears in its full-blown form.

Learning about developing symptoms, early warning signs, and taking action can help to ensure prompt treatment. Early intervention CAN help reduce the severity of an illness and interruptions in quality of life and function. It may even be possible to delay or prevent a major mental illness altogether.

Some of the signs and symptoms that may be evident are:

  • Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care.
  • Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions or depressed feelings, greater irritability.
  • Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Overthinking or Brain Fog — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
  • Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations.
  • Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity.
  • Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings, a sense of unreality.
  • Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
  • Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
  • Unusual or Unsafe behaviour — Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behaviour or taking increased risk. Not following safety processes or procedures.
  • Changes in work performance — Increased absenteeism, worsening performance, difficulties in relationships with peers and co-workers.
  • Substance Abuse – Reliance on Alcohol or drugs may be a sign that someone is suffering from a mental illness.

One or two of these symptoms alone can’t predict a mental illness but may indicate a need for further evaluation. If a person is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to engage, work or relate to others, they should be seen by a physician or mental health professional. People with suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others, need immediate attention.

Research on Mental Health has shown that early intervention can often minimize or delay symptoms, reduce the severity and improve prognosis. Even if a person does not yet show clear signs of a diagnosable mental illness, these “red flag” early warning symptoms can be frightening and disruptive.

Just as with other medical illnesses, early intervention can make a crucial difference in preventing what could become a serious illness.

Encourage the person to:

  • Have an evaluation by a mental health or other health care professional.
  • Learn about mental illness, including signs and symptoms.
  • Receive supportive counselling about daily life and strategies for stress management.
  • Be monitored closely for conditions requiring more intensive care.

Work colleagues should intervene if they suspect there is mental health illness. This doesn’t mean diagnosing, but asking if people are ok, alerting their managers and being there to listen to those who are suffering. This will go a long way in supporting the individual to overcome issues. Learning about mental illness and what is happening to them can help individuals and colleagues understand the significance of symptoms, how an illness might develop and what can be done to help.

It can be seen from the above Mental Wellbeing is a complex topic. Employers should equip their company with the tools to help. Employees can be aware of symptoms with their colleagues thus if you or others notice anyone in the organisation has any symptoms, then engage, speak to the individual, have an informal chat, and give the support that they may need. You could be saving a life!

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please consider contacting the organisations below:

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