Perhaps writer and poet Maya Angelou said it best when she said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
And if you yourself have ever struggled with a problem or dilemma of your own, you know that sometimes it can be enough to just open up and talk to someone about it, like a trusted loved one. Indeed, there’s a famous adage among counselors, psychologists, and therapists alike that “Sharing is healing,” because of the innately cathartic and therapeutic nature talking to others about our struggles.
Most of the time though, if it’s nothing too serious, venting to a friend can be enough to get those negative feelings off our chest. But what about those people who don’t reach out and ask for help when they’re struggling? How do we help a friend in trouble when we don’t even realize they’re in trouble?
Well, while this certainly doesn’t constitute a professional diagnosis, there are some early warning signs that can let us know when someone isn’t okay. With that said, here are the 7 types of people you should always check up on:
1. The person you haven’t seen in a while
While some people obviously prefer to spend more time by themselves than others, it’s still important to check up on those friends you haven’t seen in a while, especially when it’s not just you but a lot of other people, too, who’ve lost touch with them. Maybe you used to talk all the time but they gradually stopped returning your calls or replying to your messages. Maybe they never say yes anymore whenever you invite them to hang out, or rarely ever leave the house to spend time with their friends. Either way, social withdrawal can be a warning sign that someone is feeling emotionally overwhelmed, burnt out, or struggling with their mental health (Kawachi & Berkman, 2001).
2. The person who hasn’t been themselves lately
If you know someone who’s been acting very unlike themselves lately — maybe a bubbly, cheerful, and outgoing friend who suddenly became quiet, weary, and less confident, or someone usually reserved and level-headed who’s been acting recklessly and partying a lot lately — you should probably check in on them and understand where this dramatic change in mood and demeanor is coming from. They might be going through something they don’t feel comfortable talking about, but just letting them know that you care and you want to listen is already heartwarming enough.
3. The person who hasn’t been performing well
Whether it’s someone you know from work or from school, if someone’s performance has suddenly taken a turn for the worse and you don’t know why, it might be time to check up on them and see how they’re doing. People whose mental health is at risk often struggle to function and perform as well as they used to because they might be distracted with a personal problem, have difficulty thinking and concentrating, feel overwhelmed and disoriented, or have lost the interest and motivation to succeed at what they do (DeSocio & Hootman, 2004).
4. The person who’s always there for everyone else
Boundlessly kind, patient, and understanding, always there to offer you advice, listen to your problems, or lend you a helping hand when you need it — if you have someone in your life who’s like this, you should count yourself lucky. True friends like these are hard to come by, which is why it’s all the more important that you check in on them too every once in a while. They might be having a hard time of their own but don’t want to burden you with their problems or feel guilty about asking for help. So offer it to them freely and let them know that you’re there for them, too.
5. The person who’s had some big changes lately
The truth is, even though we all know that change is an inevitable part of life that should be embraced instead of feared, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with sometimes. Adjusting to a major life change like moving to a new city, breaking up with someone, graduating from college, or working at a new company can all be very scary and unsettling, even if we know it’s ultimately for the best. That’s why it’s always important to check in on your friends and see how they’re doing in light of changes like these (Wheaton, 1990).
6. The person who says they’re fine but doesn’t seem like it
Last but certainly not the least, if you have a friend who says that everything is fine even though they really, really don’t seem like it, check up on them anyway. Sending mixed signals to everyone — like faking a smile when something bad happens to them, making jokes about how depressed and stressed out they are, subtly trying to pick fights with others or acting passive aggressively — might already be a silent cry for help, so don’t be so quick to dismiss it, even when they tell you otherwise. They might not be ready to admit to you or even to themselves that they are struggling with something, but be there for them anyway and offer them your support to help them get through it.
So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Did reading this list make you realize that there might be some people in your life right now you need to check up on? If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health, seek help and reach out to a mental health care professional today. Talk to a guidance counselor or therapist about it, or get in touch with one of the many local and international mental health service providers, organizations, and emergency hotlines today.
- DeSocio, J., & Hootman, J. (2004). Children’s mental health and school success. The Journal of School Nursing, 20(4), 189-196.
- Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. F. (2001). Social ties and mental health. Journal of Urban health, 78(3), 458-467.
- Wheaton, B. (1990). Life transitions, role histories, and mental health. American sociological review, 209-223.