Helping Someone Receive Treatment

Families and friends often are unsure how to convince their loved ones to see a medical professional. In a compassionate way, explain to the person that you are concerned that he or she is showing symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder, both treatable medical conditions. Often, people feel relieved to learn that they are suffering from a medical condition. Ask the person to see a medical professional, offer to make an appointment, and go with the person or call the doctor in advance to state the person’s symptoms.

Other Things You Should Do

  • Show you care. Depressed people and those with bipolar disorder can feel isolated in their pain and hopelessness. Tell your family member or friend how much you and others care about the person, want the person to feel well, and are willing to help. Listen and sympathize with the person’s pain.
  • Acknowledge the relationship impact. In a caring way, let the person know that the mood disorder affects you and others in the family. Your relationship, including intimacy, household responsibilities, and finances, are all adversely affected when someone isn’t well.
  • Be informed. Read a brochure, Family Profiles (see www.familyaware.org), or a book, or watch a videos on mood disorders and share the information with the person. Stress that mood disorders are a treatable, medical conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, not a sign of weakness. Assure the person that people with mood disorders do feel better with treatment.
  • Use a symptom list. Go through the symptom list with the person or have them take a confidential evaluation that will guide him or her toward medical help. Take the symptom list to the appointment for discussion with the medical professional.
  • Reach out. Find other people to help you get your loved one into treatment, especially medical and mental health professionals such as your primary care physician or a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. Think of others to whom the person will listen, such as family members, relatives, teachers, friends, or a member of the clergy, then enlist their help.
  • Seek immediate help If at any time your family member or friend talks about death or suicide or may be harmful to you or others, seek immediate help. Contact your doctor, go to your local emergency room, or call 9-1-1.

What NOT to do

People with mood disorders are suffering from a medical condition, not a weakness of character. It is important to recognize their limitations.

  • Do not dismiss their feelings by saying things like “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together.”
  • Do not force someone who is depressed to socialize or take on too many activities that can result in failure and increased feelings of worthlessness.
  • Do not agree with negative views. Negative thoughts are a symptom of depression. You need to continue to present a realistic picture by expressing hope that the situation will get better.