But you certainly can spot symptoms from a mile away once sensitized through exposure to those close to you with similar maladies. In the beginning, I couldn’t see my own child’s tics. Now I spot anyone’s tics from a mile away. Autistic idiosyncrasies are not always apparent to the untrained eye. Yet those who recognize the patterns suspect almost immediately. Manic symptoms follow a predictable trajectory, as do many mental health clues.
Recently I counseled with a friend about bipolar symptoms, and what to do as an observer of another family’s challenges. As a woman my own age with various life experiences, she gets it. Here’s the risk you, my friend, or I face. We might offend someone if we indicate to them there may be a mental health issue and not just behavioral oddities. But here is the greater risk. Most people have no clue about mental health issues. With no clue, there is no seeking of treatment. When one of mine was still little, there were classic symptoms that should have YELLED obsessive compulsive disorder to me, to teachers, and to health professionals. Collective ignorance created a gap of three years before diagnosis and intervention.
Speak out what you see, sensitively and non judgmentally. If you have already made relational deposits in the bank of another, your instincts should be trusted. The counsel should never include a diagnosis, even if that diagnosis is obvious to you. Unless you are a licensed psychiatrist reading this blog, you can not, may not and should not diagnose another person with a mental illness. But tipping them off to get evaluated by a mental health professional just may save a life.