A family member has depression. Is there anything I can do to help?

Anne's comment:

In addition to all the excellent points made by the authors in response to this question, the small daily gestures of support are so important. Being patient, not taking irritable behavior to heart, maintaining a positive attitude instead of mirroring a negative one, and seeking therapy for yourself when you feel overwhelmed by the demands of caring for your sick partner or child are things you can do to create a healing environment. All family members living with a depressed person are affected in some manner, and it helps to recognize the effects and address them with professional guidance.

Anthony's comment:

1) Listen, 2) contact the proper mental health professional, and3) stay with your family member if you think he or she is suicidal. You may have to step away from the situation for awhile once you have gone through these three steps, because ultimately, as with any medical condition, your family member will need to seek assistance on his or her own.

Helping your family member seek treatment is one of the more important ways to assist. Many individuals have difficulty taking the first step of making an appointment with a mental health practitioner. If the person is already in treatment, helping him or her remember the appointments and providing encouragement to stay in treatment is of tremendous help. Accompanying your family member to any appointments to provide feedback to the clinician can be of help, because some depressed persons have difficulty noting either improvements or setbacks in their condition. If on medication, assistance and reminders to take medication are useful, because a lack in adherence with medication is a common reason for relapse. If there is reason to believe that someone is suicidal, it is critical to seek assistance as soon as possible. If a depressed family member refuses to get assistance, it is prudent to call the local authorities, such as emergency medical services, to have the individual evaluated in the emergency room setting. Although this option is not always well received by the person involved, it is the best and may be the only choice if someone is at risk for killing himself or herself.

My father died 6 months ago. Since then my mother refuses to leave the house, stating that she is still in mourning. What should I do?

Anthony's comment:

Everyone grieves at his or her own pace. Bereavement expands across all areas. This can even include the loss of a pet, which I recently experienced. I considered my pet my best friend after having her for 15 years in my life. After the loss I did not want to celebrate holidays or spend time with friends. I have been grieving for 6 months and still have difficulty with the loss. Bereavement differs for all people and ultimately you have to grieve for the time that is right for yourself. I used to believe that the sooner you return to your normal activities, the better you are, but after I was diagnosed and treated with cancer, I realized you cannot be expected to maintain a specific schedule. I had returned to my job too soon at that time, and it was a big mistake—the return to "normalcy" did not actually create the best conditions for my personal recovery and ultimately created worse circumstances to deal with.

Bereavement can be a complicated process for many people and differs between cultural groups as well as between individuals.

Bereavement can be a complicated process for many people and differs between cultural groups as well as between individuals. Symptoms of grief look the same as symptoms of major depression. Death of a spouse is extremely stressful and often precipitates a major depressive episode. Defining the starting point of such an episode in the context of bereavement can be difficult. Generally speaking, after an undefined period a process toward moving on begins. Funerals and memorial services are ritual-based events that help provide a sense of closure for many people to help them recover from their grief. If there is no evidence of efforts toward this recovery, with poor functioning in work and/or relationships persisting, then the presence of a clinical depression is more likely. If suicidal thoughts occur, perhaps associated with wishes to be with the spouse again, depression that requires treatment is likely present. In such circumstances it is best to seek professional help. It may be difficult to convince the grieving person to go for an evaluation, but helping to set up the appointment, attending the appointment, and even insisting that consultation be sought can be useful. Again, if suicidal thinking is believed to be present, going to a local emergency room may be necessary if treatment interventions are refused.

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