If you were driving your car and it kept making a ticking sound, you wouldn’t ignore it. You would try to figure out whether it’s a serious problem or not. There are also mental health warning signs to pay attention to that indicate it might be time to speak with a therapist.

Getting the best performance out of your car or truck is not so different from taking good care of your mental health. 

My first job was at an automotive service station. Now, as a clinical psychologist at a stress and anxiety clinic, I often make the connection between cars and mental health because it helps people see why maintaining your mental health, similar to maintaining your car, is important.

Just like you need to charge your battery or put gas in your tank, you need to recharge and refuel yourself.

Self-care and healthy habits help fill your tank and can include:

Some things you can do on your own, like checking your oil or putting gas in your tank, but there are other times when a professional can help. Professionals have access to specialized tools and know-how based on training and experience.

Signs it might be time to speak to a therapist

South asian man depressed sitting on couch

If you’re experiencing a nagging feeling that something is not quite right with your thinking, feelings or behaviour, these can be indicators that you need some help.

Early intervention can help reduce the severity of mental health problems and even prevent them altogether. It is important to be able to spot the beginnings of mental health problems in yourself.

Here are some early mental health warning signs men should look out for:

Sleep, appetite, and hygiene changes

Wearing the same clothes for days on end because you genuinely don’t care is a personal choice, but losing all interest in your grooming and appearance can be a sign of trouble.

The same goes for feeling disinterested in sex or meals, getting more or less sleep than normal, and feeling tired more often or more acutely than usual.

You don’t feel like yourself

Ask yourself: do I feel down, anxious or angry more often than not? Are most of my comments negative? Do I still find things fun or interesting? Not feeling quite like yourself or having others tell you they notice a difference in your behaviour are important warning signs.

Intense or persistent negative feelings

It is normal and healthy to feel negative emotions that fit the situation. However, people can get “stuck” in one or more negative emotions, like anxiety, sadness or anger. If negative emotions are excessive and are happening all the time, if they occur as outbursts or are more intense than make sense for the situation, then it may be time to talk to someone about it.

Nothing seems interesting anymore

South asian man lying on cough in the dark

When you lose interest in activities you previously enjoyed—hobbies, sports and even sex—or spending time with friends or family, this may be a sign that you are struggling.

There’s a difference between wanting to skip an activity and not being able to find anything at all that engages you.

Struggling to function daily

But if doing familiar tasks is difficult and you need help figuring out why, this is a sign worth looking into. Notice whether starting or performing tasks is difficult or personal relationships are more challenging than usual.

Anxiety can creep in and make any situation seem dangerous. Navigating life with depression can be like driving in a white-out; it’s hard to see clearly.

Disruptive thoughts and trouble focusing

It’s normal to worry about the week ahead or feel regret for things in the past. But when your thoughts cause distress or start to interfere with day-to-day functions (like work and sleep), it’s a sign you should speak with somebody.

Difficulty paying attention and an inability to focus or remember things are also signs.

Using substances or avoidance to manage stress

Substance use and avoidance are commonly used to manage stress, but these “solutions” can become problems. More effective science-backed strategies to help build your skills and cope with stress include problem-solving, focused action, mindfulness, and cultivating a realistic mindset.

Next steps

My rule of thumb is when in doubt, check it out. Changes in your thinking, emotions, and behaviour that are intense, excessive, ongoing and/or very unusual are all indicators.

It isn’t easy to know whether you need a service stop or whether you have run out of road. Spotting one or more of the signs mentioned doesn’t necessarily mean your mental health is in jeopardy. It simply means it’s time to pay attention and find support.

Resources for support

See if you qualify for online counselling sessions at no cost to you from TELUS Health MyCare with MindFit Toolkit.

If you’re not quite ready to talk to someone, self-directed resources are also available to support your mental health.

  • MindShift CBT App: Anxiety Canada uses scientifically proven strategies to help you take steps to manage anxiety. 
  • BounceBack Program: A free program to help manage mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
  • Greater Good in Action: Science-based practices for a meaningful life, curated by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Call or text 9-8-8 toll-free, anytime. If you are thinking about suicide or you’re worried about someone else, access support 24/7, 365 days per year. Specialized services are available for children, teens and Indigenous peoples. Learn more at 988.ca.

Get the Right Tool For the Job

Free mental health resources for men. Manage stress, anxiety and depression with MindFit Toolkit.