Paul Stemman

Deaf Info

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Early Warning Signs of Mental Health Problems

Because people are so different from each other, so the early warning signs will differ between people. What is important is the change in someone away from their ‘normal’ behaviour.


The following is a list of some signs that might mean that someone is experiencing a mental health problem. Just because someone is doing something on the list does not mean they definitely have a mental health problem. If you look at anyone hard enough, you are likely so see some warning signs.


It must be remembered that we all have ‘mental health’ – just as we all have ‘physical health’. Occasionally, our bodies might feel a bit ‘rundown’, but we are not ill. Similarly, our mental health can sometimes be a bit ‘rundown’ but that does not mean we have a serious mental health problem.


Our mental health becomes important when it starts to affect our day-to-day living. If it means you can’t go to work, or you can’t keep working without feeling stressed, then it becomes a problem. Some mental health problems cause us no distress and impinge only slightly. However, with other mental health problems, the experience can be quite distressing.

Either you sleep more than usual, and don’t want to get up. Or, you may find that you only need a few hours sleep and feel full of energy.



You may become withdrawn and not want to see people or contact people. Alternatively, you may become very sociable and be keen to meet complete strangers.


Hearing voices, seeing things

There is much debate about whether Deaf people ‘hear’ voices. What is important is the effect this has on someone. It can be extremely distressing to hear or see something that nobody else can hear or see. We are used to these experiences being shared. It can be frightening to realise that what appears to be real to you, is not real to other people. Often the voices can be very critical and this can make the experience worse. Seeing someone who is experiencing this distress can be very upsetting.



You may start to have ideas that seem perfectly ‘normal’ and rational to you, but other people think are ‘odd’. In particular, any thoughts that you are being followed, or people are signing/talking about you. Again, it is often difficult to spot this warning sign in yourself, because you believe it to be true – for you it is real. But friends and family may find such ideas shocking or nonsense. These delusions can take many forms. Some people think that people on the TV are communicating with them, or that they have a special super-hero task to do.



Changes to eating patterns can be a warning sign. You may no longer feel hungry, and skip meals. Alternatively, you might start to eat more, especially foods that make you feel ‘comfortable’.
If you think that you might be beginning to experience a mental health problem, then do not be ashamed. It is estimated that 40% of Deaf people experience mental health problems.


Telling someone you can trust is often the best first step. This can often make things feel less frightening. If you feel you need more support, then your GP is normally the right person to see. They may refer you to someone who specialises in mental health. For more details see What to do if you think you may need some support.