Mental health problems

Being sad, stressed, depressed or having other difficult feelings is a normal part of life, and having these feelings does not mean someone has a mental health problem. All sorts of things happen in life and these feelings are a natural reaction.

However, if someone is feeling constantly unable to cope, having feelings or experiences that are “taking over”, can't be understood or can't be shifted, then this could be a sign of a mental health problem. One in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem like depression, stress or anxiety at some point in our lives and there is good treatment and support out there to help people get better.

Take a look at Young Minds or HeadMeds for more information.

Mental illness

Mental illnesses are conditions and disorders that affect our mood, thinking and behaviour. Examples include Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Addiction, Self-harm and Eating Disorders.

When someone has a mental illness it can, just like a physical illness, often be treated (so a person recovers completely) or managed by treatment or medication (to reduce the impact of an illness on a person's life).

Sometimes people can manage their symptoms and lead a life virtually unaffected by the condition. Sometimes however, the illness or condition can be chronic – that means it is long term, and the person may need a lot of support and face real changes in their lives for a period of time.

Signs & Symptoms

There are a number of signs and symptoms a person with a mental health problem or a mental illness may experience. What’s confusing is loads of the things listed are things that can happen to any of us any day – especially when people are going through puberty and changes in life – we can have many of these feelings without being unwell! (Just like you can have a stomach ache or a headache without it meaning you have a serious medical condition).

Signs and symptoms can be physical or they can be emotional, a one-off experience or a regular occurrence.

Experiencing any of these things does not mean someone has a mental health problem. However, if one of these things or many of these things are happening, and it’s affecting a person's life, or confusing or scaring them, they should definitely speak to someone about what’s happening so they can help them make sense of it:

  • Weight change or change in appetite
  • Feeling worried, anxious or stressed
  • Wild mood swings
  • Losing enthusiasm and energy – not enjoying things they normally do
  • Seeing, hearing or feeling unusual or scary things
  • Being unable to sleep or to get out of bed
  • Feeling urges to do things that aren’t healthy, safe or sensible
  • Acting out of character
  • Feeling strange or disconnected
  • Stopping seeing people and doing things, and hiding away
  • Feeling hopeless, useless, unlovable or worthless
  • Feeling like harming themselves or someone else
  • Starting to use drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, or increasing how much they use
  • Losing it – losing control, emotional outbursts, constant crying
  • Uncontrollable anger or anxiety.

To find out more about things that can affect our emotional well-being, as well as to learn more info about specific mental health problems, mental illnesses and treatment Emotional Well-being: A to Z section.