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Worried about somebody – recognizing the signs of early mental distress

Friday 31 January 2014

It is more common than one may think to suffer or know someone who suffers from some form of emotional/mental distress during ones lifetime.

Mental distress describes a range of experiences which impact on an individual’s day to day functioning. Sleeping and eating patterns may get disrupted, behaviour becomes erratic, moods appear volatile and there may be a noticeable withdrawal from social contact. Self harm is often another aspect and manifestation of mental distress, as can be the heavy use of alcohol or street drugs.

There are many life events that can contribute to the onset of mental distress. Changes in familiar and safe surroundings, such as coming to University can be a trigger, as can the more common causes of suffering the death of a loved one or the break down of a significant relationship.

Sometimes mental distress can be linked back to earlier traumas in one’s life that have been evoked by the anxiety of the current trigger. Whatever the cause, it is the management of the current situation that assists the outcome, positively or negatively.

Recognizing the early signs of mental distress can help minimize the severity of a persons suffering and its detrimental effect if it occurs. People often try to hide or disguise difficult feelings fearing the worst, so if becoming a student has evoked overwhelming personal and emotional challenges, these feelings may be apparent in some of the behaviours mentioned above.

The behaviour of someone experiencing such difficulties may be unnerving to witness and challenging to respond too, particularly if the person if fearful of being judged or losing friends or their independence. When someone behaves in such a manner it is vital to be sensitive and supportive, holding in mind that there is a wealth of expert help within the college that is easily accessible. There is more information on what to do if you are worried about somebody on The Advice and Counselling website at www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk/wellbeing/problems/someone.

If someone you know is experiencing a crisis and you think they are at risk of harming themselves or someone else, these are some of the options available to get help quickly www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk/wellbeing/crisis.

Counselling can be helpful for all kinds of difficulties whether you are dealing with something potentially serious as outlined above or something that is simply interfering with your usual ability to study. Even if you do not know what the problem is, but you are finding life difficult to cope with or know someone that is, talking to a qualified counsellor can be helpful.

The Advice and Counselling Service offer a range of specialist, confidential and free support for all students at Queen Mary. Our aim is to support students to achieve their academic potential and have a rounded student experience, by helping manage any personal, emotional, financial, legal or welfare issues that may arise whilst studying here. For further information access our website www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk.

In addition, the QM Mental Health Coordinator can also assist students to manage university life www.dds.qmul.ac.uk/mentalhealth.

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