We've put together some suggestions that may help you help someone receive treatment or help someone manage depression, once diagnosed.
Families need to work together in managing treatment, since mood changes and behaviors affect the whole family, and many issues are involved in treatment. Ways in which you can work as a team are to:
A good way to partner in treatment and provide emotional support is to go to appointments periodically with the depressed person. You can keep track of the clinician's recommendations, discuss changes in symptoms, and review the treatment plan.
Before you see the clinician
During the visit
If treatment is not working
People with depression are suffering from a medical condition, not a weakness of character. It is important to recognize their limitations.
Often when you try to help someone who is depressed, your help is declined or nothing you do seems to help. You end up feeling rejected and discouraged that there is nothing more you can do.
Depressed people may reject your help because they feel they should be able to help themselves, and feel worthless when they can't. Instead, they may withdraw or start an argument in an effort to resolve their difficulties. In addition, people with depression have negative thoughts and feel so hopeless that they do not see recovery as a reality.
Fifty percent of people with bipolar disorder have a lack of insight, so they do not realize they are ill. For example, people with bipolar disorder may believe they are a "high-energy person." This makes family involvement in seeking and managing treatment even more critical.
With these difficulties in mind, what can you do if your help is turned away?
Helping someone who is depressed and reluctant to seek treatment can be very trying and frustrating. As much as possible, try to enlist the aid of family members, friends, and medical professionals in this process.
Each year, 3 to 6 million Americans under the age of 18 suffer from depression. Although the symptoms of depression are the same as those for adults, children and teens may not be able to express their feelings as well or may exhibit different emotions. Look for signs of declining school performance (e.g., poor grades), frequent temper tantrums, outbursts of crying, or unexplained irritability.
Your child must receive treatment for depression. Children need to learn how to continue to develop and find ways to cope. In addition, teens suffering from depression are at risk for committing suicide, the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds.
Treatment of depression for children and teens includes psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy helps children and teens learn how to express their feelings and gain critical communication skills. The use of medication is an emerging field in child psychiatry, and medications have been approved for children in certain age groups.
Having a spouse with bipolar or depression can be extremely draining, especially if your spouse is refusing help. Women who are married to men often find that their husbands feel pressure to "tough out" most medical conditions—mental health related or not. This can create a seemingly impermeable barrier to getting help for a spouse. You may find this PDF on helping a Depressed Husband helpful, if you find yourself in that group.
The stress of caring for a depressed person is significant. Family and friends often develop depression themselves and suffer from anxiety or a host of other problems. Be sure to expand your social network through support groups and other caring communities. Try to find other people to help you care for your loved one, so you don't shoulder the responsibility by yourself.
Unfortunately, family and friends operate with little knowledge and guidance on how to recognize and cope with depression. Clinicians normally focus on the depressed patient, not family and friends. In the past and even now, families are often blamed for causing the depression. Social stigma associated with depression causes many families to live in secrecy, afraid and unprepared to talk about the condition openly.
Family and friends are very much affected by depression. In helping a depressed person, they take on additional responsibilities at home and work. Depression symptoms, including withdrawal, irritability, and hopelessness, strain relationships. Those living with someone who is depressed are much more likely to become depressed themselves.
The good news is that when families and friends are armed with knowledge of depression and find support, they are able to improve treatment results and cope effectively. According to research, families that discuss depression and increase their understanding of the condition achieve long-term positive change in family functioning and increased resiliency in children. By learning about depression and about ways to help your depressed loved one and handle your own emotions, you can effectively manage depression over time.