Mental health…is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.

Noam Shpancer

“Hi, how are you?”

Most of us don’t miss a beat and respond to this common question with an automatic “I’m fine, thank you.”

But are you, really fine?

For decades, we’ve been conditioned to believe physical health is the only health that matters.

And, while initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk Day—which, this year, is Wednesday, Jan. 26—have increased discussions regarding mental health and mental illnesses, we still have a long way to go. That’s because:

Small steps forward are still steps.

What’s even more concerning is a lot of people still go undiagnosed—so much so that Fardous Hosseiny, former national director of research and policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), said he believes the number of Canadians living with mental illness is actually closer to one in four than one in five.

Being aware there’s a problem is the first step to solving it. So, how does one gain awareness? Well, look closer.

Mental health and physical health always go hand in hand. If your mental health has taken a setback, your body will reflect it—often in ways that might be difficult to connect. In fact, these symptoms are often sidelined as “bad habits” or brushed off as “common” issues.

A cartoon person walks around with a heavy backpack on and a dark cloud over their head.

But overlooking the side-effects of mental illness won’t make them go away. Instead, it’ll likely harm your health further.

So, here are some often-overlooked symptoms of poor mental health to watch out for:

Disrupted sleep

A cartoon person lays awake in bed.

As students, it might seem normal to stay awake until the wee hours of the night. But regularly having trouble falling asleep could be a sign your mental health isn’t at its best.

Sleep disorders like insomnia—struggling to sleep—and hypersomnia—sleeping too much—are a common side-effect of poor mental health.

Setting a steady sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcoholic beverages in the evening and exercising during the day can help you sleep better. However, if your struggles with sleep stem from struggles with mental health, the best way to tackle it is to treat it at the root.

Skin struggles

A cartoon person says, "It's a rash."

Poor mental health can cause skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and psoriasis. That’s because things like anxiety, stress, and depression trigger your nervous and immune system—which leaves you prone to developing skin issues. Plus, cortisol—a hormone your body releases to deal with stress—damages the skin when you experience stress for long stretches of time.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and meditation can help treat mental health-related skin issues. You could also make use of skincare products to decrease these conditions.


Anger from Pixar's "Inside Out" explodes with fury.

When your mental health is shaky, you might find yourself getting unusually bothered by things that wouldn’t normally affect you—like the sound of a pen clicking in class or lagging wifi. If you experience constant irritability, hindering you from performing basic day-to-day activities, you might want to invest more heavily in self-care and finding ways to de-stress.

Voicing your worries to your loved ones and engaging in social activities help tackle irritability. Also, meditation and yoga are useful ways to calm your mind

Memory loss

A person forgets something.

Experiencing blanks in your memory and extreme forgetfulness are effects of poor mental health.

Sometimes memory loss is caused by mental illness itself; and sometimes it’s a result of other side-effects and coping mechanisms like fatigue, lack of sleep and excessive alcohol intake.

If you find yourself struggling more than usual to remember what happened yesterday, it could be a sign to introspect. Practicing relaxation exercises and following a stringent sleep schedule can help bolster your memory; but addressing your underlying mental health issues is the only certain way to fix the problem.

Weakened immune system

Scooby Doo, sick, shivers while wrapped in a blue blanket.

Do you find yourself more susceptible than usual to catching a cold or the flu? It could be the result of a weakened immune system—which, itself, could be the result of stress.

Stress often triggers a “fight-or-flight” response from the human body, leading to an increase in adrenaline. This damages your immune system and, makes you more vulnerable to illness.

A diet containing protein, fruits and vegetables can help strengthen your immune system. But, to tackle the stress at the root, try incorporating movement into your daily routine, meditating and getting at least seven hours of sleep at night.

Digestive problems

A stomach on fire.

The “gut-brain connection” highlights how poor mental health can lead to digestive problems like indigestion and/or constipation. It also specifies that these symptoms are often accompanied by a severe increase or decrease in appetite.

The gut-brain connection exists because your gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion and triggers symptoms like nausea and abdominal pain when your brain experiences stress or anxiety.

Practicing yoga and including prebiotics and probiotics in your diet could help treat stress-related gastric issues.


"Meh" in yellow block letters on a pink background.

Do you find yourself lacking the motivation to do, like, life? Even things you used to enjoy? Well, that’s apathy.

Feeling disinterested and emotionally unresponsive are side-effects of a declining mental state.

Creating a daily schedule and setting small goals could help treat apathy.

Breathe in, breathe out. You got this.

While we’ve highlighted some small things you can do to tackle these lesser-known symptoms of mental illness, as we’ve also discussed, the only real way to beat them is to improve your mental health overall. And how do you do that?

Well, for one, you talk to a professional.

Humber’s Student Wellness & Accessibility Centre (SWAC) offers free, confidential virtual counselling to all Humber College and UofGH students.

The SWAC’s experts, and the services they provide, are designed to help you:

  • Learn tools and strategies to improve your mental health
  • Work towards solving your issues
  • Give additional support through counselling groups

You can book an appointment by heading over to SWAC’s website or email

Remember, acknowledging your issues is half the battle won. And IGNITE’s here to support you through the rest.

Rest is crucial to a healthy mind. So, here are simple habits that’ll help you have the best sleep of your life.

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