Often families feel helpless as they watch a loved one suffer from depression. Many will ask, “What can I do?” Family members may be pleased to learn that they can help in several ways. One of the first things to do is to encourage the patient to seek treatment. As a family member or close friend, you may want to specifically describe the changes that you have seen take place in the patient’s life and explain the effect that this has on you. Doing research ahead of time, and having the names and numbers of therapists to call, can make that next step easier.
If the patient agrees to the idea, you may want to accompany your loved one to the doctor’s office to discuss the changes you have seen and to obtain a referral for a therapist. This can help get the ball rolling. You may also offer to attend the first therapy appointment with the patient. Let him or her know that you will provide support in any way you can as he or she seeks treatment.
Patients may be encouraged to participate in activities, helping to draw them out of their depressed state. Family and friends may make plans for social activities, inviting their loved one to come along. Provide these individuals with opportunities to do the things that they previously enjoyed. Let them know that you love them, no matter how depressed they may feel.
If your family member is prescribed medication, help to make sure that he or she continues to take the drug(s). If you notice a change in personality after starting the medication, either positive or negative, talk with the patient and physician about those changes.
Finally, living with a depressed person can be extremely challenging, and quite frankly, depressing at times. Care partners (family or friends helping with the care of a patient) need to be sure to take care of themselves. As a care partner, you should try to keep balance in your life and to do the things that bring you pleasure. If experiencing depressive symptoms, a care partner should also seek professional help.