Something is not quite right about the way someone close to you is behaving.
You are worried about someone. Is it serious, or are the changes in behaviour and mood just a phase? Are drugs involved? Should they see a doctor? There is probably not a serious problem. However, if there is a developing mental illness, then getting help early is very important.
If the illness is picked up early, then treatment can work earlier too, and help deal with the symptoms. It’s more likely that the person will keep up good relationships with family and friends, and there will be less disruption of school, work, and everyday activities.
Behaviour which is considered normal although difficult.
People may be:
These behaviours may also occur as a normal brief reaction to stressful events such as -
In these cases, the person probably doesn’t need to see a doctor for assessment. Try not to over-react, and be as supportive as possible while waiting for the bad patch to pass. If the behaviour is disruptive or distressing for other people, or if the difficult behaviour persists, seek help from a counsellor, gp or other health worker, or Citizens Advice Bureau.
Behaviours which are considered abnormal for that person.
People may -
See a doctor as soon as possible
These behaviours are much stronger signs that something needs to be checked out by a doctor, particularly if they have been present for some weeks. There may only be a minor disturbance but a mental illness, such as a psychotic disorder, may be developing.
Some people who are developing a mental illness may use alcohol or street drugs to help feel better. While this may work for a short time, these drugs will, in fact, make symptoms worse, and make treatment more difﬁcult.
Drugs such as cannabis can also produce psychotic symptoms like those listed in Checklist 2. This may be short-term (a drug- induced psychosis) or can lead to a long-term psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. If someone’s behaviour worries you – or drug use causes problems at home, school or work – then try to get help for the person. A doctor can make a medical assessment to see if there is a mental illness which needs treatment, or decide if referral to a drug and alcohol agency for treatment would help.
Sometimes people don’t want to see a doctor because they feel they are being criticised, that others are against them, or because they feel frightened, anxious or angry. Some may have trouble putting their thoughts together to explain their problems, or they may not realise they are ill.
If there is outright resistance to the idea of getting medical help, talk to the doctor yourself to work out a plan.
The doctor may be able to visit the person at home to make an assessment. If this is not possible, they should still be able to tell you where to get help and support – for the person and for the family and others who are worried.
Book a longer appointment so there is time to explain, and take this pamphlet with you as a discussion-starter. When explaining your concerns, give specific examples rather than vague expressions.
For example, instead of saying or writing:
Jack gets very frustrated, say
Jack was so angry last night that he kicked his bedroom door down.
Mia looks awful, say
Mia wears dirty clothes to school and doesn’t wash or comb her hair any more – she used to be fussy about her appearance.
Paul is very shy these days, say
For the past week Paul has only come out of his room to get food.
Donna thinks we hate her, say
Last night Donna would not come out of her room or eat with us. She said we are all plotting against her.
Call the SANE Helpline for information and advice.
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