How to recognize when a friend is struggling

What is Mental Health?

  • Mental health is our emotional, behavioral, and psychological well-being. It impacts how we cope with stress, interact with others, and make decisions. Mental health is important at every stage of life, but adolescence can be a time of increased difficulty. 
  • Many people have difficulties differentiating signs of mental health illness from signs of physical illness. Some of these signs include problems with sleep or appetite, fatigue, and low motivation. If a mental health condition is interpreted as a physical illness, the person will not get the treatment they need, and this can make their symptoms worse.
Original art by Siena Laws
  • What are common signs of different mental health issues? 
    • Depression/ Self-harm and suicide
      • Feelings of sadness, irritability, constant worrying 
      • Withdrawing from activities 
      • Lack of energy, tiredness, changes in appetite and sleep
      • Problems with work or school
    •  Substance use
      • Vomiting, shaking, slurred speech, injection marks, lack of personal care
      • Problems with work or school
    •  Eating disorders
      • Excessive dieting and concern over food
    •  It is important to check in with your friend if you recognize one or more of these signs, as they may be experiencing a mental health issue. 
  •  What are common warning signs of suicide?
    • If someone talks about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, etc.
    • Increase in drug or alcohol use
    • Isolation from friends and family
    • Withdrawing from participation in activities
    • Saying goodbye
    • Giving away possessions
    •  It is important to intervene immediately if you notice that your friend is showing one or more of the suicide warning signs listed above.
World Health Organization. (2019). MhGAP Community Toolkit: Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) (pp. 63-80, Rep.). World Health Organization. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2020, January 24). Risk Factors and Warning 
Signs. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from