Don, interviewed for his family story.

For Immediate Release

April 04, 2017

Families for Depression Awareness Launches Toolkit to Help Identify “More Than Mood” Symptoms Caused by Depression

New resource designed to raise awareness among families and caregivers that depression can affect reasoning, organization, attention, and memory

Waltham, Mass. – When playing cards with his family, Don usually won. Sharp-witted, he also engaged in spirited conversations. But when he experienced depression, that all changed. Remembering, planning, and making decisions became remarkably difficult. Little did he or his family know that depression can affect a person’s thinking processes. Whether this impairment is mild or major, these depression symptoms can have a significant impact on a person’s life.

In response to a general lack of understanding about these symptoms, Families for Depression Awareness (FFDA) today launched a comprehensive toolkit to help family members of people living with depression identify one of the most challenging aspects of depression: the inability to think clearly. “More Than Mood: A Depression Symptoms Toolkit for Families and Caregivers” specifically addresses symptoms related to reasoning, organization, attention, and memory (“ROAM”) that directly affect people who live with depression and impact the lives of their loved ones.

“We created this toolkit to prepare family caregivers – parents, siblings, spouses, children, and others – to help their loved ones receive a proper diagnosis and appropriate, effective treatment,” said Susan Weinstein, co-executive director at FFDA. “It’s critical that caregivers have tools and resources to help their loved ones achieve long-term wellness.”

Many people are aware of common symptoms of depression, such as effects on mood, self-worth, energy, and appetite. However, few realize that cognitive impairment – including problems with thinking – is also a common symptom of depression. “We developed the ROAM acronym to highlight the breadth of depression’s potential impact on a person’s ability to function, apart from the better-known physical symptoms,” said Weinstein. “It’s important for people affected by depression to know about ROAM symptoms because some healthcare providers may not be as familiar with these as with other symptoms.”

Cognitive symptoms can be difficult to understand and describe. The toolkit provides resources for people living with depression and their caregivers to help articulate their observations and concerns about cognitive issues to healthcare providers, so they can work together to identify the best course of treatment. Also, the toolkit explains that it’s important for caregivers to know that as other symptoms are resolved, the ROAM symptoms can persist and continue to require treatment.

The toolkit includes videos of two families who share their personal stories about how the cognitive difficulties caused by depression affect their everyday lives. In one of the videos, Dan, a caregiver, notes that his role with his brother was “to fill some of the gaps that maybe he couldn’t at that time.” Dan observes that “people can improve the quality of their life and figure out ways to work through this, with support.” The toolkit gives family caregivers examples, information, and strategies for lending that support.

The complete “More than Mood: A Depression Symptoms Toolkit” on the FFDA website includes a wide range of materials, including:

  • Downloadable fact sheets for patients and caregivers that describe ROAM and the role of the family caregiver in treatment, as well as a discussion guide and symptom tracking chart to help interact with clinicians;
  • An online “Depression Wellness Analyzer” to assess symptoms including those related to ROAM;
  • Videos featuring patients and their family caregivers sharing their experiences of managing ROAM symptoms;
  • A video that demonstrates cognitive impairment in real-life situations;
  • A recorded webinar with a leading researcher about cognitive impairment; and
  • A handbook about cognitive impairment symptoms occurring with mental health conditions.

More information about the ROAM symptoms of depression and the complete toolkit are available at familyaware.org/more-than-mood.

Download a PDF of the More Than Mood press release