Seeking Help for a Loved-one with Depression
One of the great dilemmas for many people is deciding the point at which they tell a loved one to seek help for depression. Depression is often a slow and insidious process and one that, at first, can be very difficult to spot. Partly because of this slow change, the person who is depressed may not be aware of the true extent of their problem. Paradoxically, they may be dismissive and angry at the suggestion of a mental health problem and the associated stigma, whilst at the same time admitting they aren't the person they once were.
For a loved one these can become frustrating times. The logic of the situation dictates that help is needed but for the depressed person a number of other issues may be on their mind. The sense of shame, perhaps more so for men, can be enough to make them stand back and hope that time alone will take care of things. They may have certain ideas, sometimes fairly impractical ones, about what they feel will make things better. They may have a resistance to the idea of taking medication and fear or misunderstand their action and side-effects. They may feel that seeking help is giving in and that they are handing control of their life to someone else.
Even though a loved one may feel the threshold has already been crossed, they need to tread a path of quiet but persistent persuasion. A person who is already depressed will be in no mood to be pressured into seeing a doctor. A little information may help to put their mind at ease however. For example, you could point out that not all treatments for depression require medication and in fact many respond better to psychological methods. This may be met by an accusation of brain-washing, so you can disabuse this myth by pointing out that the patient largely controls their therapy while the psychologist provides guidance and some ways to help them.
Strong resistance is more difficult to cope with and whilst you could try recruiting other family members to help persuade the person, there is relatively little that can be done beyond a certain point. If however your loved one starts to talk about suicide, this is the time to contact your doctor directly, explain the situation and ask what options are available.
Assuming however your persuasion pays off, it can be helpful if you accompany your loved-one. It's not unknown for a depressed person to put on a performance in the hope they will be told to go home and relax or take a vacation. With you alongside it will help to ground the situation. You can provide an accurate time frame for the problem and an explanation and description of how the behavior and moods of your loved one have changed over time. Again, despite the cold logic of what I've just suggested, you should really seek your loved-one's permission to do this. Because someone with depression can find it hard to process and retain information, you can be helpful in another way. You could, for example, promise only to listen if they seem concerned about your evaluation of them. In this way you can listen to what the doctor suggests and perhaps remind your loved one of the treatment options suggested and their pro's and con's.
Perhaps you've been in this situation yourself, or you know someone who has. How long did it take them to get their loved one to see the doctor? Was there a magic moment that turned things around? We'd appreciate your thoughts.