Seeing a loved one suffer with depression is not an easy sight and at times can cause YOU to feel hopeless. For some individuals, depression can be debilitating and painful, making even the thought of getting help seem impossible. Trying to help someone who is depressed can be exhausting and met with many barriers. Arming yourself with knowledge, however, may help make the process easier. Below are a few suggestions of things to consider if you are trying to help someone you know.
Learn about Depression - there are many misconceptions about depression. Believing a person is lazy, weak and/or not interested in getting better are a few perceptions that individuals may have. Depression, is in fact, a common disorder that can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Generally speaking, interventions like medications, psychotherapy, and social support are needed in order to help alleviate symptoms.
Avoid Judgment - aside from understanding what depression is, it is also important to avoid judging your loved one. Being judgmental may cause your loved one to disregard what you are saying, especially if he/she is in denial of their symptoms. Being supportive by educating them about symptoms, options and resources can help provide the support they need and hopefully allow them to get some help.
Take Suicidal Talk Seriously - if your loved one has thoughts of hurting himself/herself it is important to contact his/her doctor right away or contact 911 if warranted. If they have not mentioned suicidal thoughts, be sure ask him/her directly so as to rule out the possibility. While some individuals may see this topic at taboo, it is crucial to know if these thoughts are floating around your loved one's head so that you can ensure treatment with the proper healthcare professional is obtained immediately.
Research Resources - knowing what types of assistance are available can help convince your loved one to reach out for help. Resources like local support groups, reading materials, online websites, etc., can help alleviate the feeling of isolation your loved one may be experiencing. Have this information handy when talking with him/her so that it will be immediately available when he/she needs it. Also consider including contact information for the National Suicide Hotline. This can be especially beneficial if your loved one is too ashamed to tell you the truth about his/her thoughts.
Aside from those listed above and those in the comments, what else should be included in this brief list of suggestions? Please share your thoughts below.
There may come a moment in your life, when you realize a loved one is in need of medical and/or a psychological attention due to physical, behavioral or mental changes they are exhibiting. Determining how and when to get them assistance can be difficult, anxiety-provoking, and filled with many unknowns. Below, are a few recommendations to consider if you are trying to get your loved one the medical/psychological attention you believe they need.
Talk with your loved one
Try to discuss your concerns with the person you are worried about. You may want to relay specific changes you have noticed and why you are concerned. If possible, try to refrain from making accusations, prematurely diagnosing, or becoming negative. The goal for this type of conversation is to relay what you have noticed, why are your worried and to express your feelings. Attaching feelings to your concerns may help your loved one feel reassured about your purpose. In other words, you don't want to give the impression that you are trying to control his/her life.
Should your loved one acknowledge a problem, consider arranging an immediate appointment with his/her primary physician or any other health care professional who believe is relevant to the problem identified. Your focus should be to serve as a support system to your loved one and help facilitate appointments and communication between any and all parties involved.
In the event your loved one denies having any problems and you are certain something is wrong, then consider some of the recommendations below. Keep in mind that factors like the relationship you have with your loved one, living far away, etc., may render some of these recommendations difficult to implement. Generally speaking, however, these are methods that have worked for some families.
Talk with friends, neighbors and/or other relatives
If you are unable to talk with your loved one directly, you may wish to discuss your concern with individuals who interact with your loved one on a frequent basis. This can be another relative, a close friend or even a neighbor. While you may not want to divulge anything about your loved one's well-being to people you don't know well, it could help give you better insight into what's going on with them.
Reach out to your loved one's Health Care Provider
Relaying your concern to your loved one's physician/mental health provider may be beneficial - provided you have his/her contact information. Be aware, however, that due to confidentiality regulations many health care professionals will not divulge any information regarding his/her patient's care. If a direct conversation with your loved one's provider is not possible, consider writing a letter explaining your reason for such contact, what you are noticing about your loved one and why you are concerned. At the very least, you will be notifying the provider and hopefully contributing to a more thorough evaluation the next time your loved one visits.
Plan an Unannounced Visit
An unexpected visit can be a great way of obtaining a glimpse of what is going on with your loved one, especially if you don't visit often. Visiting someone's home can often give you insight in to their priorities and functional capabilities. In other words, you want to assess things like the cleanliness of the home, their personal hygiene, their food supply and compare it to when your loved one was fine. Any changes could be further confirmation that something is wrong.
Reach out for Community Support
Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may find yourself needing additional "outside" support, especially if your loved one is refusing assistance but clearly needs some type of "intervention." If so, you may want to try reaching out to the department of social services or local mental health providers to inquire what, if anything, can be done to help your loved one. Certain cities and states have programs in place to help someone who may be at risk.
In the event you learn that there are no services to assist or that your "hands are tied", and it is causing you anxiety, my suggestion is to consider seeking therapy for yourself. Doing so can help alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing and may help prevent them from getting worse.
Do you have any other suggestions on getting a loved one help? Please share them below.
For some individuals, seeing a therapist is a necessary component to their ability to function. For others, therapy is viewed as a temporary solution to get over a "bump in the road." Regardless of how you view therapy, it is important to be aware of some of the common issues individuals may experience which could indicate the need for therapy. Below are a few of those issues:
1) Trouble Sleeping – any significant changes like difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much is usually a sign that something is wrong. Barring any underlying medical conditions, it is important to understand how problems related to work, home, health, or even within a relationship usually have a way of "creeping up" on an individual once they are settling in to relax. This can especially be true if an individual is trying to postpone dealing with a particular issue or is unsure how to cope.
2) Significant Changes in Your Normal Routine – changes associated with lose of appetite, mood, lack of interest in hobbies, etc., may also be a sign that therapy is warranted - especially if there is no medical explanation for the behavioral change. Regardless of how big or small the change is perceived, if significant enough, it can trigger an emotional and physiological response that the person may have little to no cotnrol over. Being able to identify changes in one's routine, can help an individual be proactive about getting the appropriate medical and/or mental health care needed.
3) Lack of a Support Network – the inability for an individual to speak with family or friends about what they are feeling is generally the result of either not having a supportive network or believing the network will be judgmental. Having someone to talk to regarding your innermost thoughts along with the ability to obtain constructive feedback, can be beneficial in many different ways. Therapy allows for such support, feedback and validation.
Knowing when you should seek therapy is definitely not as easy as it sounds. Being aware of some of the above changes, however, could allow for someone to reach out sooner as opposed to when they feel hopeless.
Do you have any other changes/symptoms you feel are important when trying to identify when someone should seek therapy? If so, please share them below.
Christine M. Valentín
Welcome to my blog where I provide tips on learning how to connect with your child and how to feel more in control of your parenting journey.
Subscribe to Christine's Free Monthly Blog and Newsletter