10 Ways To Encourage A Person With Depression To Seek Help
17 July 2019
Major Depressive Disorder (a.k.a. Clinical Depression) is a severe medical illness that negatively affects the way we feel, think, or act. It can lead to various emotional and physical problems and impair a person’s ability to function at work and at home. Fortunately, depression is a treatable condition. But encouraging someone with depression to seek help can be challenging. Here are some ways to make it easier:
- Repeatedly assure them, “Having depression doesn’t mean that you are weak. It probably means that you have been strong for too long - we care for you, we want you to be happy, let us help you.” Reassure them that willingness to seek help is a sign of bravery - courage is not the absence of fear; it is acting in spite of fear.
- Having someone in the family or community whom the person respects and trusts, e.g., clergy, family doctor, a good friend to encourage them will likely make the session more successful. Repeatedly and consistently convey the message, “Depression is not weakness; it’s an illness.”
- Share with them that there are many people who have depression, including many celebrities and successful people. If you have gone through depression yourself, you may also share your experience if you are comfortable with it.
- Seek help from a general medical practitioner first. Due to social stigma, this is more acceptable than consulting a mental health professional. Seeking help from a counselor may also be more acceptable than a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.
- Consulting a private mental health professional may be more acceptable because you get an earlier appointment (within a day or week), a preferred day and time for consultation, and the availability of a regular doctor in each appointment.
- Expose them to reading materials related to depression. Hopefully, they will have a better understanding of depression and are willing to seek help. For a free e-book on depression, “I’m Still Human: Understanding Depression with Kindness” by Dr. Phang, please refer to https://issuu.com/pckar/docs/imstillhuman
- It is OK not to use the word ‘depression.’ Let them know that we are seeking help for sleep difficulty, poor appetite, body aches, tiredness, poor concentration - which are part and parcel of depression. Also consider the use of other more acceptable terms, e.g. ‘emotional flu’ or ‘severe stress,’ or ‘mood disorder.’
- Remind them that whatever they tell the doctor is kept strictly confidential. No clinical information will be released without a patient’s consent, unless in emergencies (e.g., suicide). Be aware of social stigma – do not unnecessarily reveal information to others.
- If there is a financial constraint, seek help from mental health services in government hospitals, which is more affordable. Try to convince a person with depression that having depression and not being able to work is more ‘expensive’ in the long run.
- Help to arrange appointments; remind them when the appointment date comes. Provide transport and accompany them for the consultation. Help them to relate their experience to the doctor, collect medicines, get the next appointment date, and remind them of treatment compliance.
Depression is a debilitating illness. Be kind and understanding to those suffering from depression. Try to gently explore the reasons for not seeking help. The reasons could be individual, e.g., believing that it is due to punishment from God. It could also be a perfectly understandable one, e.g., unpleasant experience with the previous psychiatrist. When we understand, we can care more effectively.