How do I know I should get help? What should I be looking for?
There simply isn't a clear-cut answer to this one. Every presentation of a mental illness is different - just as every broken bone needs to be treated on a case-by-case basis.
For example, one person's experience of depression may manifest in poor sleep, decreased appetite, unclear thinking and general lack of interest in things.
Yet another person may have few, if any, of these symptoms. Instead, they may feel exceptionally fatigued (no matter how much sleep they get), totally lacking in motivation to do anything (including getting out of bed, talking or even watching TV) and have thoughts of self-harm.
Neither is better or worse. And both examples might indicate a clinically diagnosable case of depression (or not).
Decades ago, I was asked this simple question:
"Have you, in the past 2 weeks, experienced any joy, happiness or enjoyment in things that would normally provide these feelings for you?"
For me, this made it crystal clear. I knew the answer for me was 'no', so I took the next steps in getting help.
Start by asking yourself that question. I truly believe we all know ourselves extremely well. We know when we're 'just not right', that we're not managing our daily life as well as we normally might.
And if so - be brave. Ask for help. Start with talking with a trusted loved one or making a call to a GP who knows you well.
Finally, if you're keen to undertake a self-assessment and get some sort of quantifiable score, you can complete the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10).
Reflecting on the past 4 weeks, you reply to 10 questions to indicate your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This is not a diagnosis – only a health professional can provide that.
I'd strongly suggest you complete it online at Beyond Blue, as their system is set up to help you take the next appropriate steps and provide you with information and contacts so you can seek support.