What to Look For

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How do you tell if you or a friend might need some help?

The first thing to know is that seeking help is a sign of strength. If you're worried or concerned, go with your gut and ask for help! This is never a wrong decision. Truly, seeing a professional can really help.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders can help you help yourself or others to get the care that they need. Here are 12 signs you might notice in yourself or a friend that may be reason for concern. They are certainly reason for you to talk with someone about what you're feeling:

  1. Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, depressed mood, poor self-esteem, or guilt

  2. Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities that used to be fun

  3. Changes in eating or sleeping patterns

    1. Are you sleeping all the time, or having trouble falling asleep?

    2. Are you gaining weight, or never hungry?

  4. Anger, rage, or craving revenge

    1. Sometimes people notice they are overreacting to criticism

  5. Feeling tired or exhausted all of the time

  6. Trouble concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions

    1. Are you suddenly struggling in school?

    2. Sometimes academic performance suffers and grades drop

  7. Restless, irritable, agitated, or anxious movements or behaviors

  8. Regular crying

  9. Neglect of personal care

    1. Have you stopped caring about your appearance, or stopped keeping up with your personal hygiene?

  10. Reckless or impulsive behaviors

    1. Are you drinking or using drugs excessively?

    2. Are you behaving unsafely in other ways?

  11. Persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain that do not respond to routine treatment

  12. Thoughts about death or suicide *

A large portion of college students have thoughts of suicide at some point in their undergraduate years. If you are feeling this way, you are not alone. Although these feelings can be common, there is no reason you have to suffer from them. As soon as you start feeling out of the ordinary, you deserve to seek help.

There is not one way people look and feel when they have depression or a different mental health disorder. Some people show behavioral changes - liking sleeping through class or staying in their dorm rooms - others might show physical signs, like slouched posture or constant headaches. Mental health concerns can also look different in men and women. But, if you recognize any of the above 12 signs for more than several days in yourself or a friend, getting help is likely to be especially important and effective.

There are many places to get advice, support and treatment for mental health disorders to get you feeling better. Seeking help is really worth it. Learn about where you can turn.

Everyone else seems happy and OK. Am I the only one feeling terrible?

No. You are not alone. Nearly half of all college students reported feeling so depressed at least once in the past school year that it was difficult to function. Mental health disorders are real, common and treatable. Getting help is important.

What can I do as a friend?

Friends can help get friends into important and effective care. It is not your job, but often friends are the first, and sometimes the only, ones to know when someone is experiencing a mental health disorder.


If you are worried a friend may be thinking about suicide, immediate action is critical.

Suicide can be prevented. Most people who are suicidal give definite warning signs that they plan to take their own lives. Often those close to them are unaware of the significance of these signals or are unsure of what to do about them. There is no foolproof way to know for sure that a friend is thinking about hurting him/herself, but by recognizing warning signs and taking action, you can help.

The following warning signs of suicide demand IMMEDIATE attention.

  1. Threats to hurt or kill oneself, or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself

  2. Talk or writing about suicide or death, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person

  3. Obtaining or looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means

  4. Giving away prized possessions and other personal things

suicide_prevention_hotlineIf you notice these signs in yourself or a friend, you should immediately call your college's emergency number or 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255 (TALK), the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, for a referral. If you cannot reach these contacts: go to an emergency room or mental health walk-in clinic, make sure you are not alone until professional help arrives and be sure that any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt are removed.



  • Dave Downing from Active Minds at Oregon State University says:

    dave1"Choosing to lead an Active Minds chapter has proven to be one of the most impactful decisions of my life. I can honestly say that our chapter has changed the way our campus views mental health.