PEDESTRIAN.TV and QLD Health have partnered up to make sure friends are looking out for each other's mental wellbeing. If you would like to talk to anyone about the issues raised in this piece, you can call the Kids Helpline (ages 5–25) on 1800 55 1800 or Headspace on 1800 650 890. If you are in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you’ve been lucky enough to maintain close friendships for many years, there’s a strong chance you know your mates back to front: their quirks, what they love, what they despise, the beer they drink – the whole shebang.

While we often wish we didn’t know everything about our friends – like finding out they happily eat dim sims with processed cheese slices – knowing someone so intimately is a privilege and we often forget how lucky we are to have such close pals.

The upside to tight friendships is that we’re often able to pick up on signals if someone we’re close to isn’t fairing as well as they usually are. In the past, it was common practice to just sweep it under the rug and not ask questions, as we were under this weird impression that someone’s wellbeing was their own business. In 2018, it’s crucial that we make sure our friends are okay.

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It’s a tricky one though, as a lot of people out there still feel hesitant to reach out for help. So much can be going on within one person that we’re not aware of. They might be worried their mates won’t take them seriously, are typically a closed book, feel like “everyone goes through it”, the list goes on.

If one of your m8s seems to be struggling and they haven’t said anything to you, it might be handy for you to keep your eyes and ears peeled. While there is a tonne of warning signs to look out for, a lot of them are internal and only the person experiencing them can reach out. Because of this, we’ve put together a list of other signs that are easier to pick up on.

None of these signs necessarily means that your mate is experiencing depression, anxiety or another mental health problem, but it’s wise to keep tabs on them.

If your mate is experiencing any of these warning signs, it’s always better to see what the go is regardless of whether you think it’s something worth investigating.

(Some) Signs To Look Out For

  • Appetite – Is your mate usually someone who devours everyone else’s food when they’ve finished eating? Or perhaps someone who always likes to eat healthy? Either way, if someone’s eating patterns begin to shift, it can be a sign that something else is going on; whether it be something as simple as having a stressful week, or something more complex like depression.
  • Low self-esteem – For most of us, experiencing moments of low self-esteem or worthlessness when faced with a particular scenario isn’t uncommon (not being picked for the school choir still haunts me to this day), but it’s when that low self-esteem persists outside that unfortunate scenario that could be troublesome. If ya mate’s being particularly hard on themselves, ask them why.
  • Unrealistic worries – Kinda like low self-esteem, unrealistic worries can happen to the best of us. Everyone makes up hypotheticals and “what if” situations in their heads, but if a friend’s worrying excessively (ie. thinking the worst has happened if someone’s 10 minutes late), it could be a cause for concern.
  • Strange beliefs – Has your friend been a bit incoherent or scattered lately? Perhaps talking about odd conspiracy theories or discussing things that never happened? That doesn’t include one-off comments like, “Ah yeah I reckon Barnaby Joyce is hard done by” (he’s not), but actual thoughts that have no merit behind them. This could be a sign of something serious, so keep those peepers open pals.
  • Agitation – This sign may be harder to pick up on as some of your friends can just be easily agitated in general (especially if they have particularly annoying friends, guilty as charged) but if you notice one of your chums has become uncharacteristically irritable, it could be an indication of a deeper issue.
  • Mood swings – Notice your friend has been experiencing some pretty extreme emotions? One moment they’re elated, the next they’re down in the dumps? This could be a sign of a mental illness, so speak to them about it.

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Where To Go From Here

Around one in five Aussies experience a mental illness in any given year and out of those Aussies, only 35% seek help. This is why it’s important that we start bonding with our friends in ways that make them feel comfortable enough to chat to us if they’re feeling a bit off. As a society we seem to slowly be getting better at it, but that culture still lingers where guys especially are made fun of if they appear to be “too open” with their emotions. Often mistaken as a sign of weakness, we need to squash that misconception altogether so that men and women can seek the help they need without fear of being taunted by their mates. It’s all fun and games until it gets serious.

If you’ve noticed your mate seems to be exhibiting uncharacteristic signs, ask them about it. Not in an accusatory way but with a warm approach that lets them know you’re there for them. Ideally, if it seems like a greater issue that needs addressing, the conversation results in seeking professional help, or, for starters, checking out some resources online to get a better sense of what we can do.

On the flipside, if you think you’re experiencing signs of a mental illness or just don’t quite feel yourself, there are genuinely heaps of options. I’m talking heaps. Looking after your mental health is just as important as exercising or eating right – it’s just another aspect of yourself that you have to maintain, and, if you find it slipping, seek appropriate help in getting yourself on the right track.

Even if you just make a cheeky visit down to your local doc and tell them what/how you’re feeling, your doctor will be able to give you some solid advice and steps that he or she spent $400,000,000 in student loans and 40,000 hours learning. Doctors, we salute you. Refer to ruok.org.au/how-to-ask

If you need a bit of guidance or more info, check out qld.gov.au and RUOK.org.au for some great info and further steps to get your mental health in check.

Just ask your mate if they’re okay, mates.

Image: Pexels / Stefan Stefancik