Weekly Tips & Insights

A Guide to Assessing A Loved One’s Mental Health

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Mental illness encompasses a wide range of conditions and affects people differently, and therefore, the signs may not necessarily be easy to point out. There could be a multitude of factors and situations, from grief to stress, that lead to behavior that causes concern from loved ones. Though giving out a diagnosis should be reserved for medical professionals, it can be helpful to be aware of the things a loved one is experiencing, and if they’re a cause for concern.

Despite its complex nature, there are a few effective ways to approach an assessment of someone’s mental health before contacting a medical professional:

What to look for:

There are many signs that can point to a decline in mental health, including:

  • Paranoia - As people age, it’s not uncommon to become less trusting, however, a drastic change in suspicion or thinking that others want to cause harm could be signs of something more serious.

  • Apathy - Drastic life events or situations can cause a shift in priorities, but sudden disinterest in things that once held significance or even refusal to complete necessities, such as eating or maintaining hygiene points to a person suffering from mental health issues.

  • Memory issues - Difficulties in remembering things or challenges in maintaining focus can indicate a struggle with mental health, particularly when these issues are affecting one’s ability to function in their day-to-day activities.

Though these issues alone do not mean one is suffering from a mental health disorder, they could potentially require further evaluation.

How to Respond:

After recognizing signs of potential mental illness in someone, it’s natural to want to encourage them to get help, but this can be difficult. A person may refuse help because they do not think they need it, or may reject your concerns because they are embarrassed about their problems or feel attacked. Here are a few ways to respond to this:

  • Approach them kindly - Try to consider how you would feel if you were in the other person’s situation and use that empathy to approach them with kindness. Bring up your concerns in a relaxed environment, in a nonjudgmental way, and make it clear that you simply have their best interests at heart.

  • Call for a wellness check - If a person has shut everyone out, and their wellbeing is uncertain, a wellness check is something that can be done to check on them and make sure they are unharmed. Visit this helpful resource for a list of situations that are grounds for a wellness or welfare check: https://thelawdictionary.org/article/what-is-a-police-welfare-check/

If you want to assess a loved one’s mental health, do not be afraid to reach out to them to get a better sense of their needs. If you find cause for concern, reach out to their physician with your observations (if you are their caregiver or otherwise in a position to do so).

For additional information, here are some helpful sources:

Rethink Mental Illness

AARP | Family Caregiving

Psych Central


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