2 December 2020 16:36
There may well be no more widespread symptom of mental ill-health than sleeping issues. Whether its an acute episode or a chronic mental health problem, a minor one-off or a long term serious bout of depression, issues with sleep are one of the most frequently reported symptoms of mental health issues.
Oftentimes it comes in the form of insomnia - perhaps the typical expression of ‘lying awake at night’ worrying about something from the day ahead - or the day before.’ Whilst this might frequently be the case when it comes to anxiety disorders it can also occur as a result of depression or a raft of other issues.
By the same token, oversleeping can be just as much of a warning sign. It’s often prevalent in cases of depression. Here, people often describe the feeling of being ‘unable to get out of bed.’
Moments can take us by surprise, and it's in the nature of life that shocking, life-altering events can occur without notice. In these kinds of occasions it's understandable that we might feel like we’re at the mercy of our emotions - oftentimes we simply are. That said, if we’re having trouble maintaining control of our emotions on an everyday basis then there might be cause for concern.
It’s understandable to cry at a wedding or a funeral, but seldomly acceptable to lash out after a difficult meeting at work or to feel like crying for seemingly no reason.
This is one that might sometimes be easier to spot in others than to admit to ourselves. We all have different social calendars, but one of the cruel ironies about mental health is that it can sometimes make us isolate ourselves from the very people that can be our first line of defence against mental health problems.
Increased isolation is itself a sign that someone may be experiencing some kind of difficulty. Often when we feel down, depressed or stressed we find ourselves feeling less and less willing to make time to see friends and family.
Whilst stress can cause some of us to try and insulate ourselves from the outside world, for some people it can have seemingly the opposite effect. Sometimes it can show itself through increased risk-taking or excessive partying as people try to compensate for their inner feelings.
Along with this, it can become very tempting to lean more on substances that make us feel better. These need not necessarily be hard drugs but can be as simple as overindulging in comfort foods or even something as seemingly healthy as exercise.
Stress and mental health issues can exacerbate our dependence on these activities to problematic extents. There’s the classic slippery slope of having one glass of wine more after a long day, which can all too easily lead to a bottle if left unchecked.
It’s often hard to find objective measurements for something like mental health in our everyday lives. It’s just not quite as simple as taking our temperature for example.
However, one measurement that can be helpful is looking at our performance at work - whether it's our own view on our performance or an HR manager. . Whilst some rare people are able to maintain a steady rate of productivity no matter what life throws at them, the simple fact is that most of us will see our results suffer if our mental health falters.
In fact, even small mental health issues can have dramatic effects on a company’s bottom line - with increased rates of presenteeism and absenteeism being simply one tip of an iceberg. One recent study indicated that mental health problems cost UK employers over £45 Billion in one year alone. Not only that but indications are that for every £1 spent on mental health provision by employers, up to £10 could be saved in additional staff costs.
One thing that is consistent in all of these is that early intervention is almost always most effective. Not only is it less costly in financial terms for firms, but it is more effective for us all as patients and avoids unnecessary long term hardship.
Sadly it is still the case that, all too frequently, mental health concerns are brushed under the carpet until they become too serious to ignore.