Chances are that this week, your timeline has been filled with post about RUOK? Day or National Suicide Prevention Week. It seems like more people than ever before are opening up about mental health and are sharing their stories. But it can still be daunting to actually ask a friend, “Are you okay?” when we don’t know if we’re over-reacting.
To put it simply, you’re never over-reacting when it comes to asking a friend or loved one, “are you okay?” Whether someone is in peak physical and mental condition or is struggling, it’s important to make sure the people we love know they’re cared for and help is available.
That being said, there are some signs a friend will give you if they need some extra support right now. If you seen one or more of these, chances are they need a friend to ask, “are you okay?”
1.You barely see them anymore
Depression causes people to feel isolated and alone. Many will stop participating in social activities, they may have more sick days from work or school, and some will avoid activities all together due to social anxiety.
2. They act erratically
Stress and some forms of mental illness can cause people to act erratically. Their mood might go up and down dramatically, and this could result in risk-taking or irrational behaviour.
3. You see scars on their body
Self-harming behaviour is a symptom of poor mental health. Self-harm does not always indicate the person wants or plans to suicide, but that they are feeling deep internal pain and don’t necessarily know how to express it.
4. They cover their body
Often people with self-harm scars will try to cover the parts of their body affected. These may be areas many people don’t naturally hide e.g. Arms, wrists, thighs, stomach.
5. They are withdrawn
When we are struggling, we naturally withdraw from the world. If someone you know has stopped speaking up, is quieter than normal, or seems disengaged, chances are something is going on.
6. Their weight has changed dramatically
Stress and mental illness can cause people’s weight to go up or down dramatically. People often correlate mental illnesses like Anorexia or Bulimia with extreme weight loss, but eating disorders or stress can also cause people to put on weight. This may appear different for various body types.
7. You don’t see them eat
High stress or poor mental health can cause us to lose our appetite or stop eating.
8. They are irritable, anxious and/or angry
Someone who is struggling may appear uncharacteristically irritable, anxious or angry. This will come out in their speech, behaviour and body language.
9. They’ve increased their use of substances
Self-medicating is a common way people try to cope. This may take the form of alcohol, prescription and illegal drugs or food. If you notice a friend has begun or increased their intake of substances, there is a good chance they need some help.
10. Their social media suggests they are struggling
Bizarre Facebook posts, passive-aggressive remarks, graphic images on Pinterest or Tumblr, even reposts of inspirational quotes related to certain issues—all of these could be indicators that a loved one has something going on behind the scenes.
If you’re not sure how to support a friend after you’ve asked them “Are you okay?” take a look at this video by RUOK? DAY. One conversation could change a life. And if a friend is in crisis, remember they can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for immediate help.