© Pierre Weimerskirch
People should be alert to drastic changes in their behaviour, warns psychologist Dr Fränz D'Onghia, in a conversation with RTL about the warning signs of mental health issues and how to find help.
Potential warning signs
"If you suddenly lose pleasure in the things that you usually enjoy, then you should question why that is. It can be a sign that something is not alright."
D'Onghia illustrates these sudden behavioural changes, which can engender serious mental health issues: "Perhaps you have a tendency to consume more, like alcohol or cigarettes. You might become more aggressive while working out. Others withdraw. These are all warning signs that should catch your attention."
These sudden mood swings can have long-lasting effects on a person's behaviour, which might be as simple as losing your sense of humour. According to D'Onghia, people might stop laughing as much as they used to or develop eating disorders. Sleep disruptions can also be seen as a warning sign.
How friends and relatives can help
If people suspect that a friend or relative is no longer doing well, they should point it out to them. The warning signs might be more apparent to friends and relatives than to yourself.
"If a person cancels a plan because they're feeling tired on one or two occasions, everything might still be alright. However, if that person stops leaving their house altogether, that might be reason to confront them", explains D'Onghia.
One shouldn't judge people but try to find out what is going on. Encouraging someone to seek professional help is also a good idea, even if this remains unsuccessful at first.
People are entitled to be in a bad mood from time to time
"Life goes up and down. People are therefore entitled to sometimes not be in a good mood for days at the time, we all know this. We all are stressed on a daily basis, at work, by the news, and by people leaving us. And that is why we swing from good to bad moods. Anyone can get down for a weekend at times, but one should start looking for help if it goes on for two weeks," warns Dr D'Onghia.
GP as the first point of contact
General practitioners are usually most familiar with a patient and can therefore help determine how to proceed in case someone needs help. Some mental health issues can also be caused by physical problems, which is why they should first be examined.
A sub-functioning thyroid, for instance, can be responsible for causing depression-like symptoms.
If they find no physical source for the troubles, GPs can forward patients to a psychotherapist. Their sessions are being reimbursed by the National Health Fund (CNS) since 1 February this year.
Dr D'Onghia notes: "It is not easy at the moment, people cannot simply call and get an appointment right away. Care accessibility has not really improved with the reimbursement of psychotherapy. Before people waited because it was too expensive, now they wait due to the enormous demand. One has to wait two to three months."
This is another reason why it is important to ask for help as early as possible. It is easier to solve a problem before it merges into a substantial mental health issue.
The Children and Youth Helpline can be reached via phone: 11 61 11. Adults can call the SOS number 45 45 45 if they require assistance.
A detailed overview of mental support in Luxembourg can be found on the following website: www.prevention-suicide.lu.