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Signs of mental illness


Serious mental illness is not always easy to recognize.

Sometimes when a person is acting disturbed, it’s hard to tell if the person is just going through a rough time, if this is the onset of mental illness, or it’s a crisis requiring a call to the Maine Crisis Hotline (1-888-568-1112).

Our goal is to help you know WHEN to seek help and WHERE to go for mental health assistance in Maine.

Mental illnesses (also called psychiatric disorders) are diseases that cause mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior. They interfere with life’s ordinary demands and routines, can take many forms, and are often misunderstood and feared by people.

The good news is—mental illness can be treated. Many people with mental illness can live full, productive lives.

Identifying a mental illness in your loved one

In general, any behavior that worries you should be taken seriously, especially if:

  • The symptoms last longer than a few weeks after a stressful event has occurred.
  • The changes in the person’s behavior are sudden or seem very out of character or bizarre (for example, fear of leaving the house, preoccupation with a particular theme, extreme anxiety, or a major drop in school or work performance or memory).

The following signs and symptoms need immediate attention! Call the Maine Mental Health Crisis Hotline 1-888-568-1112 immediately to get the best guidance.

  • Suicidal thoughts or comments
  • Dramatic changes in sleep or appetite
  • Hearing voices no one else hears
  • Seeing things no one else sees
  • Believing without reason that others are plotting against him/her
  • Believing he/she has special powers or is, for example, being directed by the devil or TV
  • Extreme fright or panic in situations that do not warrant this
  • Extreme and unreasonable resentments or grudges
  • Garbled speech or writing

These are symptoms of serious mental illnesses, many of which are associated with suicide attempts. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,

“At least 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illness—such as major depression, bipolar depression, schizophrenia and alcohol or drug abuse, particularly when combined with depression.”

Visit our dictionary to learn more about these disorders. Or, visit our Crisis: Get Help Now for a Loved One page for other guidance. Or go to Mentalhealth.gov for more information.

If you suspect a mental illness in a loved one, who can help with a diagnosis, treatment and/or support?

  1. Maine Mental Health Crisis Hotline 1-888-568-1112: If you think someone you care about may have a mental illness, or if you’re just worried about them, this is a good place to start. Even if you know this is not a “crisis,” their trained staff can help assess your situation and direct you to services that may help you or your particular situation.
  2. Primary Care Physicians (PCP): Your loved one’s medical doctor has received basic training to recognize psychiatric disorders. This is also a good place to begin, especially if your loved one has a relationship with their PCP or the insurance company requires a referral.
  3. Maine Psychiatric Service Provider: To find a Maine psychiatrist, therapist or other mental health provider, visit How Do I Find…
  4. Other resources that may help: The following resources have a wealth of information on mental illness, suicide prevention, and when/how to seek help.

Words of Hope

" Changes in how we understand, care for, and nourish anyone who is ill, begin with the language we use when we speak of them."
- NB


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PO Box 1385
Scarborough, ME 04070-1385




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Family Hope is Maine's resource for finding mental health services. We do not endorse any one program or organization. Our mission is to connect you to options, saving you time and frustration.
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