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Helping a Depressed Person Seek Help

answered 11:41 PM EST, Wed August 07, 2013
anonymous anonymous
My sister is clearly depressed. She lost her job 18 months ago and has spiraled from a high energy person to a person that sleeps the day away so she won’t have to face it. I could list a thousand examples of the differences from then and now but there is no way there isn’t something seriously wrong. What is so frustrating is that she won’t admit it and she won’t do anything about it and when I try to bring up the subject now she closes up right away and it is like I am talking to a wall and so I end up listing all these reasons why I think she is depressed and it feels like I am in a courtroom putting her on trial for not being good enough. How do I convince her to get help without making her feel worse about herself than she already does and when by now, she doesn’t even want to talk to me anymore because she knows I keep nagging her about getting help.

Rev. Christopher Smith Says...

Rev. Christopher Smith C. Smith
LCAC, LMHC, LMFT
Google+

When someone you love is struggling with depression, it can be really frustrating. They have changed from the person that you knew into someone who is behaving in ways that they never would have previously. This is the case whether or not the depression has triggering events that you can point to. As much as you want them to get help, they also need you to be providing a supportive environment. This can be a difficult balance to maintain.

It is important for you to be able to find things to acknowledge that are positives in your loved one's life. On the surface, you may feel that their whole life is being affected in negative ways by their depression. The reality is that depression can be pervasive through many dimensions of a person's life. However, if you pay attention, you can often fin some things that you can affirm. In the areas that you cannot affirm, rather then simply talking about those areas, see if there is a way that you can assist the person to begin moving to a more positive place. For example, rather than complaining about how they never cook good meals, offer to come over and cook supper with them. Not only will this help in the preparation of a meal, there will also be some social interaction. When you prepare the meal, you may also prepare several extra servings that you can help your loved one refrigerate or freeze so they can eat them later. As you move alongside your loved one, you are able to help them to address areas that need to be addressed and will be considered more of an ally rather than a prosecuting attorney. As you do this, it is also important to not enable them to continue to engage in unhealthy behaviors because you are simply stepping in and taking over making their involvement unnecessary. This is a careful line to try and walk.

As you reestablish yourself as an ally with your loved one, this will then make them more receptive to your suggestion that they seek professional help. Especially if you live together, but always possible, you can also suggest getting help for you as a family unit. There are family therapists that will work with adult siblings. As the therapist works with the two of you, you will probably find your actions being challenged and changed as well as the focus will not be just on your loved one. However, in the midst of family therapy, your loved one will begin to get help and may be open to further intervention when it is raised by the therapist.

One final cautionary note is important. If your loved one is or becomes a danger to themselves or others then it is critical that you act right away. If your loved one is expressing suicidal thoughts or even an intent to commit suicide, then you need to find a way to get your loved one to a mental health professional or to the local emergency room for an evaluation. If you are not able to get them to go, then you need to discover what the processes are in your locale to force intervention (in some locales this is as simple as calling the police whereas other locations are more complicated and involve working first with a particular agency). If your loved one is already upset with you, they are likely to be even more upset when you do this, however their life may require you to act in a way that will make them upset with you.

As you move through these ideas and use these types of resources, it is possible to make a difference not only in the condition of your loved one but also in your relationship. As you do this, you and your loved one will be able to find peace and wholeness.

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Page last updated Aug 07, 2013

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