Signs to look out for and how to respond

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Signs to look out for and how to respond 2019-09-24T12:01:15+01:00

The majority of young people experiencing emotional distress are not mentally ill but may require extra support and reassurance. Signs of distress to look out for include:


  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Fear and worry
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Numbness
  • Hopelessness


  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Lack of energy
  • Dizziness, headache and sweating
  • Dry mouth, nausea
  • Aches and pains
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Neglecting personal appearance


  • Self-criticism
  • Worries
  • Pessimism
  • Impaired concentration
  • Mind racing
  • Confusion
  • Suspiciousness
  • Emerging unusual beliefs


  • Withdrawing
  • Avoiding situations
  • Crying
  • Loss of motivation
  • Repetitive and/or compulsive
  • Self-harm
  • Risky behaviours
  • Alcohol/substance misuse


  • Let the young person know you’re concerned and want to help
  • Listen attentively and non-judgementally:
    • Open and relaxed posture, appropriate eye contact
    • Open questions to get them talking
    • Reflect back words or phrases to show you are listening and check understanding
    • Avoid giving advice!
  • Give reassurance that what they are experiencing is common and there is support available
  • Encourage self-help strategies – see the ‘Looking after yourself’ section.

If you have concerns that a young person may be considering suicide, ask directly if this is the case and take appropriate action.