A few months ago, I posted my first article in a mental health series to share some of my guiding principles of the things I’ve learned in my journey when it comes to mental health in hopes that it might help others. The first post you can find here and starts with being there for yourself and for others.

This leads me into the second article.

Do you know the warning signs when someone is struggling?

To be honest, I didn’t. I had a general idea but I wasn’t confident and had predetermined ideas of what mental illness looked like. I know now I was wrong and even with good intentions, I was likely insensitive and uniformed and missed the signs.

I am not a medical professional or expert but going through my own battles, supporting those around me and learning as much as I can through courses and training about mental health, I’ve become more aware and present about those around me and myself.

I’ve learned to recognize the warning signs.

Doing so can help save a life.

Common signs of someone who is experiencing a mental health problem or has a mental illness is when you notice a change in their normal behaviors and attitudes and it is especially important to pay attention to these sudden changes.

Trying to tell this difference isn’t always easy. There’s no easy test that can let someone know if there is a mental illness or if someone’s actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors.

For me, my normal everyday behavior is to be outgoing, social, and talkative. My husband started to see changes after having our second baby when I didn’t want to do much of anything. I didn’t want to go outside, talk on the phone, get dressed for the day, and he had a hard time having a conversation with me.

My husband’s normal is very much like mine and I started to notice changes when he seemed to have a hard time focusing, didn’t want to talk to me or others around him, got extremely irritated when things wouldn’t work or go as planned when normally, he is a don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff-kind-of person. He also stopped eating and sleeping, which is very atypical for him.

My husband and I shared a live video a couple of years ago about our mental health journeys and one of our biggest “aha” moments was when we heard these differing themes from fellow farmers:

“I have similar symptoms, knew something was wrong but didn’t realize that was what anxiety looked like.”

“I am living with anxiety and my symptoms look a bit different.”

Each illness has its own symptoms and every person and situation are different. We didn’t realize that for some, including my husband, thought that the symptoms of anxiety were considered normal to them because that’s all they’ve known. We also realized that anxiety may look and feel different for another.

To help guide you further, someone might be struggling with their mental health when you see a change in their thoughts, feelings and behaviors that:

  • Negatively affect their responsibilities and relationships
  • Last for a long period of time, possibly two weeks or more
  • Are dramatic, intense, stronger changes than usual

Examples include:

  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Not taking care of personal hygiene
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Overwhelming anger, sadness or other distress
  • Extreme worry or anxiety
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems or activities
  • Substance use
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Trouble understanding or relating to situations or people
  • Saying things like “What’s the point?” “Nothing matters.” “No one cares.”
  • Suicidal thinking

This information of the signs, symptoms and examples can be found at various mental health websites such as healthyplace.com.

If you see these warning signs, particularly when they occur together, and are concerned for someone, it is time to take action, for yourself or for others. Paying attention to the warning signs can help and even save someone’s life. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help.

If you or someone you know needs help now, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.

If you are looking for mental health resources in agriculture, please visit the Do More Agriculture Foundation at domore.ag.