Mental Health Warning Signs

Mental health conditions affect individuals from all different backgrounds and in a variety of ways. Some things may be so subtle that the individual doesn’t even recognize them as a problem, whereas other things may be very noticeable to others. Someone experiencing mental health difficulties may demonstrate dramatic shifts in their moods, changes in eating and/or sleeping habits, trouble relating to others, psychotic symptoms (e.g., hearing/responding to internal voices), substance abuse, and/or physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, gastrointestinal problems). There are numerous diagnosable mental health conditions to which these may be attributed.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety:


  • Lack of motivation (e.g., unable to do routine tasks or other things they want to do)
  • Lethargy (e.g., not having the energy to do anything, including things that they used to enjoy; not attending class)
  • Increased irritability/anger (e.g., more agitated than usual)
  • Isolation (e.g., not going to class or even hanging out with friends)
  • Lack of focus (e.g., inability to think or concentrate)
  • Suicidal thoughts (e.g., “I can’t do this anymore,” “I just want the pain to stop permanently,” “I just want to die,” “I don’t know if I’m going to be safe if one more thing goes wrong”)


  • Anxiety attacks (e.g., the person is so overwhelmed, they may start to experience a racing heart, sweaty palms, trouble breathing, dizziness, or uncontrollable shaking)
  • Isolation due to feeling overwhelmed being with others (e.g., avoiding class due to possible anxiety increase)
  • Constant state of worry disproportionate to the problem (e.g., worrying about grades even though tutors have all expressed positive feedback)
  • Lack of focus (e.g., worrying so much that one cannot focus on the here and now)

Some people are able to manage things on their own, while most will need support at least at some point in their lives. See the sections below on helping others and yourself when struggling to cope with mental health conditions.

The above is not an exhaustive list of mental health-related symptoms. If you would like further information on mental illness, what it might look like, and what you may be able to do to help, please visit The JED Foundation.

Helping a Friend

Seeing a friend suffer can be extremely difficult. They may exhibit any number of mental health warning signs (see above for more information). The best way to help is to talk to them about your concern and let them know you are there to support them. Here are a few tips on how to have a healthy and productive conversation with your friend about their mental health:

  • Be clear about your concerns and what you have noticed.
  • Use “I” statements as much as possible. For example:
    • “I am worried about you because…”
    • “I have missed you in class.”
    • “I am here for you. What can I do to help?”
    • “It really worried me when I heard you say…”
  • If they are willing to share their thoughts and feelings with you, LISTEN.
    • Try your best to avoid judging or jumping to conclusions.
    • Just be there. Sometimes just knowing that someone is supportive and cares about them is all they may need to get through a difficult time.
    • Let them know that even though it’s hard now, it’s possible to feel better.
  • Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers or that you can “fix” it.
  • Try to help them while they’re struggling as you are able (e.g., offer to help with chores or running errands).
  • Do activities with your friend that may help improve their mental health. For example:
    • Be work-out buddies. Go to the gym, do yoga, or even just go for a walk outside together.
    • Eat healthy meals at lunch and/or dinner together.
    • Practice mindfulness techniques together. For example:
      • Breathing exercises
      • Guided relaxation/meditation
      • (See below for more mindfulness examples and resources)
  • Connect your friend with services.
    • Talk about how seeing a counselor might help.
    • If you are comfortable doing so, share any experience you may have had with yourself, family, or friends that have sought help and how it helped.
    • Give them information about the SJC Counseling Center.
    • Provide them crisis hotlines and resources.
    • Be patient. Do not try to force someone into seeking help unless they are in immediate danger.

If your friend is actively suicidal or is seriously threatening someone else, PLEASE do not try to deal with it on your own. If you are on campus and afraid for your friend’s safety or the safety of others, please call SJC Public Safety at 443-336-2348 or ext. 2000. If it is a life-threatening emergency, you can also call 911 from anywhere. Do not hesitate to save someone’s life! For more information on what you may be able to do to help someone struggling with their mental health, please visit The JED Foundation.

Faculty/Staff Resources

Here at St. John’s, our faculty and staff are extremely caring and supportive. If you are concerned about a student, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Counseling Center for consultation and how you may be able to help that student. Feel free to email Dr. Lopez, senior staff clinician and the administrative lead of the Counseling Center, directly at heather.lopez(at)

Some things to look out for, particularly if what you’re seeing is different from how the student typically presents, include:

  • The student is more reserved in class and seems to fear speaking up in class.
  • The student begins to miss more class time.
  • The student seems more agitated than normal and easily becomes angry.
  • Disruptive behaviors.
  • Taking excessive breaks during class.
  • Crying in class.
  • Communicating excessive worry despite your reassurances.
  • (See above for mental health warning signs.)

If you notice any of these symptoms (or other concerning presentations), some things you can do to support the student are:

  • Set up a time with the student to talk privately. PLEASE do not pull the student aside during class, as this could lead to increased anxiety and the student feeling singled out/embarrassed in front of their peers.
  • Listen. Sometimes just listening to a student can help them feel supported.
  • Use supportive language like: “I hear what you are saying,” “What can I do to help?”
  • Recommend that the student seeks services with the Counseling Center. If you have questions about the Counseling Center, including how a student would make an appointment, please see our FAQ’s.

Student in Crisis

If you feel the student is in crisis, encourage them to utilize the Counseling Center’s crisis walk-in hours, which are every weekday the school is in session from 12–1 p.m. If the student seems hesitant to seek help from the Counseling Center, walking with them to the Counseling Center may relieve some of their resistance.

If you feel the student is a danger to themselves or others, please try to keep the student within eyesight and call Public Safety at 443-336-2348 or ext. 2000.

For more information on what you may be able to do to help someone struggling with their mental health, please visit The JED Foundation.

General Mental Health Resources


What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. As humans, we tend to worry about the future and think a lot about the mistakes we have made in the past; however, we rarely find ourselves enjoying the present moment.

Now that you know what mindfulness is, you’re probably wondering how to make it happen. There are ways that you may have heard of (e.g., meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and the like). While these are indispensable tools, there are also other simple, everyday things that you can do to stay mindful, such as:

  • Asking yourself questions in the moment:
    • “Where am I?”
    • “What do I see?”
    • “What do I hear?”
    • “What do I smell?”
    • “Who am I with?”
    • “How do I feel right now?”
    • “What am I grateful for right now?”
    • “What three good things happened to me today?”
    • “What goals did I meet today?”
    • “What goals do I want to meet tomorrow?”
  • Journaling. (Read Why Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Many More Great Minds Recommend it.)
  • Exercise. (Taking care of our body is taking care of our mind. If you are regularly exercising, you can boost your immune system, release endorphins, and improve your mood.)

Of course, there are many apps for mindfulness as well, including:

For more apps that may be beneficial, we recommend reading “15 Best Meditation and Mindfulness Apps.”

For additional resources on mindfulness, please see our Online Resources list below.

Local Outpatient Resources

If you are interested in seeking therapy and/or psychiatric services outside of the Counseling Center, there are multiple options available. What is listed below represents just some of the options. If, after reviewing the information below, you need assistance, feel free to contact Dr. Lopez, senior staff clinician and the administrative lead of the Counseling Center, directly at heather.lopez(at)

  • If you have St. John’s College student/college health insurance, you may be able to access free outpatient counseling and psychiatry services so long as (1) you see the provider(s) by telehealth and (2) they are in-network. Please confirm this with your insurance prior to beginning services. To find a provider near you or to ask questions specific to your plan, call the member services number (found on the back of your insurance card) directly.
  • Regardless of your insurance or where you are located, you can also:
    • Call the customer/member service number on the back of your health insurance card. Ask them what therapists/psychologists/psychiatrists (depending on what service you are looking for) are near you and covered by your insurance.
    • Search on Psychology Today. You are able to search for therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups that might be near you. Once you do the first search, you are then able to filter for additional preferences (e.g., insurance, whether they offer teletherapy/telemedicine, in what behavioral health conditions they specialize, therapeutic approaches, etc.).
    • Ask family members and friends for recommendations for providers near you.

Please note that some providers may not be taking new clients when you call; they may put you on a waiting list or refer you to another provider.

If you require support outside of your regular counseling or psychiatric appointments, you may also call CareConnect at 888-857-5462 to speak immediately to a non-St. John’s College, licensed behavioral health clinician 24/7/365.

Online Resources

Staying informed about mental health is an important part of coping with mental illness.

Here are some online resources and information that can help you learn new coping skills, practice previously learned skills, or find additional help:

Exercise Resources

Mindfulness Resources

Substance Use Resources

Eating Disorder Resources

LGBTQ+ Resources

Additional Mental Health Information and Video/Audio Resources

St. John’s College IS NOT responsible for the content of the listed sites/outside contacts.