This past year, one of my relatives had a terrible bout of depression. She stopped eating, lost a lot of weight, and was in and out of the hospital because she wouldn’t take care of herself. She pushed people who wanted to help her away and it seemed like she just wanted to curl up in a corner and die. Maybe your loved one is in a similar situation, or maybe their depression isn’t quite so severe. Whatever your situation, I hope what I have to share with you in this article is helpful.
When a depressed person won’t seek help or won’t accept help. Depression makes a person see the world more negatively than most people would. A depressed person may feel that seeking help will make others talk about them in a negative way. If this is the problem, it is best to affirm to the person that “A wise person gets help when they need it.” It may be easier to make an appointment with a family doctor or other doctor that the person knows and trusts already, rather than a strange psychiatrist or counselor. Some clergy also feel comfortable with counseling a depressed person.
If a depressed person says they will make an appointment but won’t do it, they may be hung up in the process of making an appointment. Insurance requirements can sometimes seem monumental, or worse, the usual run around for an appointment may be perceived as rejection. If you feel this is the problem, you can make the appointment for the person. Make the calls and say, “I’m making an appointment with the doctor for you at (date and time). Is that ok?” Asking if it is ok helps to leave at least some control in the hands of the depressed person, who may be feeling helpless enough already.
Another approach is to leave a self help book out for them to read. A good place is the bathroom or someplace where they may have to sit and wait.
You can also call the police for a mental health arrest if the person talks about suicide or hurting other people and they have a plan for how they would do it. Another time when a mental health arrest may be used is when a person is unable to care for themselves, such as when they will not eat or eat so little that have lost a lot of weight. If you are unsure, you can always call your doctor or the emergency room to see if they think it would be a good idea.
When your loved one refuses to take medication. Many depressed people are hesitant to take medication because they have a fear of side effects that exceeds the actual risk of side effects. You can reassure them by saying that you will keep an eye on them and make sure they stay safe. Another thing to keep in mind is that side effects from antidepressants often go away after about 2 weeks of being on the medication. If the side effects are mild, it may be worth waiting to see if the side effects go away. Also, it can be reassuring to tell them that they can call their doctor and stop taking the medication if it bothers them too much. However, encourage them to make the decision to stop medication with their doctor, so that the doctor can help them decide on the next step of treatment.
A second issue is that many patients may stop taking medication because they don’t feel better right away. Remind them that the medication may take time to work (sometimes up to 6 weeks) and that the dose may need to be increased. Also remember that depression usually does go away by itself (on average over the course of about 6 months). The natural healing process can be very slow, but for most people with depression, things do get better eventually.
When your loved one pushes you away. Try not to take it personally and try to stay positive and rational. You may need to seek help yourself. This is not easy. Many people who are depressed feel worst first thing in the morning, so it may be easier to try again later in the day. If you are trying to convince your loved one to do something enjoyable, remind them that getting going is the hardest part and then they will probably have fun later. Make the first step on the journey an easy one. If they won’t come along, remind them you will be there if they change their mind. Remember, depression usually gets better and you will likely have your loved one back if you wait patiently.
Work Group on Major Depressive Disorder Independent Review Panel. “Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Major Depressive Disorder, Third Edition.” (n.d.): n. pag. Psychiatryonline. American Psychiatric Association, Oct. 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2012. .