Mental health issues can impact anyone – including some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Various studies from across the world have identified that adults living with disabilities often experience more mental distress than those living without disability. Mental illness can also impact the elderly community, and it is becoming increasingly recognised in ageing individuals.
At St Johns Community Care, our staff and volunteers primarily work with people living with disabilities and elderly persons, so we know the importance of being able to recognise the signs of mental health issues. As an organisation, our goal is to assist people of all abilities and cultures to lead fulfilling lives – so taking measures to enhance health and wellbeing is central to what we do.
Over the past eighteen months, understanding mental health has become more important than ever as the wider community have been socially impacted by the pandemic. Mental illness has become more prominent for many people due to lockdowns and social distancing, so it’s valuable for everyone to have a broad idea of when they should speak up or offer help to loved ones.
If you know have a close relationship with someone, it might be easy to identify mental health concerns based on major changes to their mood or behaviours. However, it isn’t always clear cut. Some of the key signs of mental illness in both adults and adolescents are listed below:
- Excessive paranoia, worrying or fear
- Confused thoughts and difficulty concentrating or learning
- Long-lasting sadness and depression
- Irritability and a tendency to anger
- Withdrawal from social activities and events
- Changes to eating habits or sleeping patterns
- General dramatic changes to mood or behaviour.
Generally speaking, when it comes to mental health, you should trust your instincts. There’s nothing wrong with showing how much you care by starting a conversation. Kindness is paramount.
What do you do if you think someone vulnerable may be dealing with mental health issues?
As we touched on above, vulnerable people in our community (including people who need disability care or aged care) may experience some degree of mental health complications at some point throughout their lives. This may be due to the unique challenges they face as a result of ageing or living with a disability. As their loved ones, it’s our job to support them in all ways we can.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to starting a conversation about mental health, however it is essential that you remain open-minded, considerate and patient. Some people might like to simply begin by asking ‘how are you?’
There is always help available for people who are experiencing mental health concerns or mental illness. Although you can offer a helping hand to your loved one, it’s important that you refer them to professional help if they are showing serious signs of mental health problems. As someone they trust, you can play a key role in breaking down the stigma associated with professional help, and supporting them as they seek treatment.