Assess Your Risk

Be aware of family history, common triggers, and symptoms

Family medical and mental health history

Knowing your family history can help you understand and potentially reduce your risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It can also reduce your risk of mental illness. Ask a family member about the following:

  • Is there anyone in our family with a mental health problem?
  • Is there anyone in our family who's had a drug or alcohol problem? What about another addiction?
  • Is there anyone in our family that you think might have had a mental health problem?

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Treat it like a medical history—it’s just as important to know your family history of mental illness as it is your family history of diabetes.

Triggers and symptoms

Mental illness can be inherited, but it can also be brought on by life events. Know the triggers, signs, and symptoms so you can be aware of mental illness in yourself and others. (For triggers, signs, and symptoms specific to the top five most common mental illnesses, visit the Big 5 page.)

A combination of these symptoms could signify a mental health disorder:

  • Problems with concentration, memory, or ability to think clearly
  • Changes in eating, such as loss of appetite or overeating
  • Inability to complete school or work tasks
  • Feeling overly worried
  • Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or worthless
  • Sensitivity to sounds, sight, smell, or touch
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable, withdrawal from others
  • Hearing knocking, scratching, or your name being called
  • Changes in energy level and sleep patterns, often sleeping during the day and being up all night

Signs and symptoms requiring immediate attention:

  • Thoughts or plans of killing or hurting oneself or another person
  • Hearing voices or seeing things that no one else can hear or see
  • Unexplainable changes in thinking, speech, or writing
  • Being overly suspicious or fearful
  • Serious drop in school or work performance
  • Sudden personality changes that are bizarre or out of character