• Anjum

Early Warning Signs

Have you heard of John Scott Haldane? He was a Scottish physician and physiologist who was fascinated by the effect of gases on the human body. His experimentation, often on himself, led to the invention of the first respirator. He also investigated a lot of mining disasters in the 1890s which led him to realize that carbon monoxide was a leading cause of death for the miners and as a result, introduced taking mice or canaries down into the miners, so that they would alert the miners when the carbon monoxide levels were getting too hard, giving them valuable minutes to resurface before tragedy struck.


Canary - Photo by Mathew Schwartz

Ever since I heard about this, I have been thinking a lot about early warning signals. Often in life, there are little warnings that happen, before things get really bad – which we are too busy to see. Yet, in hindsight, we may recognize them. Or perhaps friends saw something (as they were looking at the situation from a bit of a distance) that we could not.


As we go through our own mental health healing, I have realized that it is important to figure out what your early warning signs may be. Each person’s signs will be different, but here are a few that you may want to notice changes in:

  • Sleep (increase or decrease, or perhaps how restful it feels)

  • Appetite (increase or decrease, or perhaps paying attention to cravings)

  • Focus

  • Attention to personal hygiene

  • Strength of will power

  • Desire to be social

  • Weather

  • Menstruation cycle

I hope this list helps you start to recognize your own early warning signs. I truly believe that the sooner we recognize these signs, the quicker we can get the help we need. Whether it is a change you make yourself, or reaching out for help (from a trustworthy confidant or a therapist) recognizing this need can make all the difference.