Encouraging Someone to Seek Help for Depression
Let’s start from a point where you’ve been supporting a loved one who is depressed. You’ve noticed things aren’t getting better and in fact may be worsening. You’ve been waiting for that moment when they say, “I think I’d better see a doctor” but it hasn’t come.
You know, and they probably also know, that it’s time for professional help. We can’t force a person to seek professional help, so the way into this is to establish why the person is reluctant. Fortunately we’ve got a pretty good idea of the most common justifications or fears people have in this regard.
Uncertainties as to what might happen, or be said or done can be quite anxiety provoking. One way to ease the person into the idea of professional help is to show your own interest. The better informed you are about depression the easier it might be to dispel some of the myths or concerns that may come your way.
Fear of being labeled or judged as being mad or insane is quite common. Perhaps your job is to point out that such descriptions are simply unhelpful and outdated. Depression is extremely commonplace. In fact many millions of people at any one time experience depression but over 80 percent of them will improve quite quickly once treatment starts.
The person may be worried their depression is a sign of something much worse. In fact depression can be caused by physical problems, so your job is to point out that depression can indeed be a symptom of a physical problem, but that most of these can be detected by fairly simple means such as a blood test. If the cause is physical, then treating the problem is likely to lift their depression.
Fear of the unknown is very common. Again, I’d suggest that you point out how common depression is. Say that doctors are very familiar with the symptoms and treatment of depression. Perhaps also dispel any fears that admission to hospital is required (this only occurs in the most severe cases) and that treatment by medication won’t usually require time away from work, if this is an issue.
Fear of medication can prevent people seeking help. Many people have beliefs about the negative effects of medication. You could perhaps mention that medication is just one treatment option. There are other approaches involving talk therapy, online counseling and therapy and even self-help approaches that can be effective. Some people fear that antidepressants are addictive. They aren’t.
If the person finds it all too demanding and complex offer to help. Offer to arrange the appointment and offer to take them and stay with them if this is what they’d like. Practicalities can be a real burden when people are depressed so your offer of practical and emotional support may be welcomed.