Signs of mental illness vary from person to person, as Mind (opens in new tab)'s Emma Mamo points out, but the following symptoms are some of the most common and it's worth seeing a doctor if they last for more than two weeks, or if things feel really desperate:
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Withdrawing from social contact
- Sudden dramatic changes in mood
- Eating or sleeping a lot more or less
- Trouble starting, finishing or concentrating on tasks
- Feeling helpless, worthless or overwhelmed
Concerned about a fellow creative? It's important to listen non-judgementally – don't tell them how they should feel. Encourage them to seek appropriate professional help, like seeing a GP or calling The Samaritans (opens in new tab).
You don't necessarily need to mention mental health, says Mamo. "Just ask how they're doing. That's enough to let them know you care and they can speak to you should they need to.
Not everyone will want to discuss their wellbeing, and they may also be experiencing personal troubles. So even though this might not be the right time to discuss it, they will know you are there for them when the time is right."
People feel suicidal when emotional pain exceeds the resources they have for coping with pain. It's a myth that people who talk about suicide aren't seriously considering it, or that mentioning suicide is attention-seeking behaviour that should be ignored.
If someone you know is feeling suicidal, follow the advice above: listen without judgement and encourage them to seek professional help.
Apps that could help with anxiety
It's incredibly important to keep an eye on yourself and others around you to ensure you know when it's time to seek professional help.
However, if you're suffering from minor anxiety or a lot of stress, there's a wealth of Android and iOS apps that help to track and boost your mental wellbeing – all with free versions available.
01. Pacifica (opens in new tab)
Helps track your moods, feelings and sleep patterns using five daily tasks (you can access three of these per day with the free version). use it to monitor your moods and thoughts over time, and pinpoint what improves or exacerbates your stress levels.
02. iWorry (opens in new tab)
A free worry journal, iWorry provides a container for everything that's currently weighing on your mind. While you may not be able to switch off those worries, it can help you to address them in a more focused way. Make a list of worries, categorise them and schedule set times for thinking about them.
03. Self-Help Anxiety Management (opens in new tab)
Developed by psychologists and computer scientists at the University of the West of England in Bristol, this app helps you work out what's making you anxious and develop ways to alleviate this, including physical and mental relaxation techniques and access to a closed social network.
04. Anti-Anxiety app (opens in new tab)
This app invites you to take a diagnostic quiz about your current levels of stress and anxiety, then uses the results to formulate a treatment plan – including self-help videos on topics like tolerating and reducing anxiety, and keeping a daily journal.
05. Catch It (opens in new tab)
Use this mood-tracking app to keep a diary of how you feel, when and why. Recording your moods can be a useful way of working out what's actually causing you to feel stressed or anxious, what helps in those situations and what makes things worse.
06. Calm (opens in new tab)
Calm helps make meditation accessible with a series of guided sessions. These range in length from two to 20 minutes, so there's something to suit everyone. It also features a series of 'immersive nature scenes' to help you relax.
Words: Anne Wollenberg
Illustrations: Beth Walrond (opens in new tab)
This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 248 (opens in new tab).
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