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How to Recognize a “Cry for Help”

A vulnerable state of mind and prolonged desperation can induce a cry for help from a victim of extreme emotional distress. In addition, undiagnosed mental illness, substance use disorders, and significant life crises can produce subtle signs and symptoms that point to despair. Defensive walls can be highly built, but somewhere inside, those suffering wish someone would reach out and lead them to the pathway of a resolution.   

While some stressors are temporary, they may seem like a forever sentence of uncontrollable devastation. Children, teens, and young adults are particularly prone to feeling alone and afraid to seek help. Yet, understanding the signs and symptoms of someone living in extreme distress can be a life-saving tool. People may cry for help with subtle signs and symptoms that need to be noticed.  

What is a Cry For Help?

A cry for help, a verbal sign, behavior changes, or an understated expression of an inability to cope with severe inner turmoils. Widely known as a cry for help, unsuccessful suicide attempts, and other extreme threats of self-harm are well-known. Trapped in severe inner turmoil, this form of expression is often expressed through verbalizations and noticeable behavior changes. Mental anguish seems impossible to survive at times and often precipitates suicide. 

Not always intended for the most brutal acts of harm, other behaviors are just as significant as they should be recognized as a cry for help. Easier to overlook, more subtle signs are often left unnoticed. If you find a loved one experiencing a mental health disorder, a substance use disorder, or a combination of the two, look for changes in behaviors. Answer the call for help when you see there could be a problem.  

Signs and Symptoms of a Cry for Help

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists behaviors indicating emotional distress, a cry for help, or self-harming behaviors. Although everyone has their patterns, pay attention when you see a deviation from the norm, no matter how subtle. Become more aware and note any signs or symptoms that may have already manifested. 

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Low energy or motivation
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Complaints of aches and pains, constant stomach aches or headaches
  • Feelings of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness
  • Abuse of substances for relief, including prescription medications
  • Anxiety, worry, and feeling guilty without understanding why
  • Thinking of self-harm or suicide
  • Difficulties with home, work, or relationships

When recognizing any of these signs or symptoms, it is essential to remember that those experiencing extreme distress are afraid to ask for help. They may shy away from reaching out because of the stigma of mental illness, substance abuse, or other crisis. Others do not want to appear weak or unable to care for their problems. As a result, a cry for help is often silent. 

More Obvious Signs of a Cry for Help

A cry for help is rarely verbalized. You never know when you need to recognize that someone needs help. Beyond the subtle signs and symptoms listed above, you may be confronted with more obvious signs. The person who needs help may be you. The following more apparent signs and symptoms could be ways people are trying to reflect they need help:

  • Verbal or written references to suicide or death, including songs and poetry linked to self-destruction
  • Complaints of causing other people problems or being a burden to people they care about
  • Extreme feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Threats of suicide or homicide
  • Giving away valued possessions
  • Trying to obtain or collect weapons or drugs that someone could use in a suicide attempt

How to Talk to Someone Who Needs Help

Using empathy and compassionate wording when addressing your concerns is a great start. Then, when you hear or notice a cry for help, speak out and project the urge or call to be there for that person. You mustn’t judge or blame others in this process of communication. Being earnest, truthful, and respectful of their pain is paramount in reaching them.

Professionals advise putting yourself in the person’s shoes. Maintain eye contact and be soft-spoken and gentle. Offering support and available options that could be helpful, such as contacting a mental health professional or parent, provides a caring environment. Listening to the issues without interrupting and interjecting is essential to find the full scope of their problems. Tell them you can feel a cry for help. 

It is especially advisable to recognize when children, teens, and even first responders show signs of a cry for help. Unfortunately, adults and first responders may be hesitant to ask for help when needed for fear of repercussions, stigma, and shame. Be kind and open when talking to someone dealing with extreme emotional turmoil. In other words, be a friend. Offer help and assistance to find professional help before the situation escalates. 

Do You Know Someone Displaying a Cry for Help in Tennessee?

If you have a loved one or friend who is displaying any behaviors that indicate a cry for help, Tennessee Valley Recovery has trained professionals who can help. Our compassionate and empathetic treatment professionals are educated with tools to reach those who are experiencing intense internal pain. We have many programs that could be helpful in resolving their fears and difficulties. There are times when you need the help of professionals. Contact us for advice.