How Can You Help When One Family Member Is Depressed

He started to hear voices telling him to kill himself; suspicious of people around him; no interest on things he used to enjoy; inability to sleep at night, easily agitated, looks superficially happy but, feels sad.

It’s truly tragic to see someone knowingly choose to maintain an unhealthy relationship when you know in your heart that they are worth a truly supportive and respect-filled, mutually satisfying relationship. — Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.


Do you know someone who experiences these kinds of things?  These are just some signs and symptoms of a person who is enduring an emotional illness called depression. Personally speaking, this issue hits close to home because it happened to a family member.

Helping a depressed person especially a family member can be a challenge to oneself and the whole family. A person struggling with this kind of disorder will not acknowledge the problem initially and might feel defensive when family members try to intervene. Family support and encouragement are vital for their recovery. It is not an individual struggle but of the entire family to heal and cope with depression. The reality is this – it’s one illness, but it’s the entire family’s battle.

Awareness And Prevent To Be Stigmatized

The first step is to acknowledge that being depressed is not anybody’s fault. Depressed individuals are dealing with a psychological problem. It is a serious mental illness that needs professional attention.  Family members should be aware of how depression works.  Awareness of the disorder can aid in improvising appropriate approaches to their needs. Also, family’s willingness to support will present to the depressed member that he is valuable. Moreover, labeling or stigmatizing the condition can only worsen the situation. Do not be afraid that other people will ostracize your whole family for this. Let this be driving energy to help a family member and not minding what other people say.

People with concealed depression or hidden depression often don’t want to acknowledge the severity of their depressive feelings. They believe that if they just continue living their life, the depression will just go away on its own. — 

Communicate Openly


Individuals who are suffering from depression are fragile and needs to be taken care of.  One way to help is to provide them with a positive environment. Let them open or speak about their feelings and concerns. Do not be critical even though what they are saying is not true or have no basis. Do not argue with their perceived reality. In the long run, they will realize their actions or what have been right or wrong in the choices they have made. If the family started to accept them and what they are going through, the feelings of abandonment and isolation experienced by depressed individuals can be lessened.

Allow Family Gatherings

It also helps to generate a positive experience. For instance, going out for dinner, watching movies, and a simple weekly family gathering at home. Each member should make available time to attend a get-together. It will secure a depressed person feeling of belongingness. Family involvement in these recreational activities creates the medium, not only for the depressed individual but also to each family member, to ventilate their feelings and evaluate how they are coping with the situation. Depression can be contagious. Taking care of a depressed family member is not easy, and it can be frustrating. This is an excellent opportunity to assess the risk of depression to each family members.

It is also a good idea to invite friends or other persons that are not related to the family. They can serve as mediator or referee to any misunderstandings or issues that can arise anytime during family gatherings. Although this is not the real goal, it is best to be prepared in case a negative outcome takes place. We don’t like this to happen especially if the depressed individual is present or aware of such situation.

Symptoms of depression are often hard to interpret. The individual feels withdrawn, having little energy to perform even mundane tasks. — Robert T Muller Ph.D.

Encourage Professional Treatment


Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult as he may find it hopeless and pointless. This can be frustrating on the part of the family members as well because it will certainly take time to convince a depressed person to seek professional help. It’s like dragging an elephant and placing it inside the fridge. When you bring up this topic, prevent talks as you sound like nagging the person already. This is not helping. The best way is to encourage them to seek help. Enlighten that a professional opinion is a good opportunity for oneself and the family to know the methods on how to solve the problem. A psychiatrist can evaluate the healing progress, and if not on the right track, they can plan changes in the treatment depending on needs. After explaining the technical side, always add that you will be with them all throughout the process. They will not be left out nor neglected while seeking treatment.

A family member’s depression affects the whole family. So, together, support each other, give unconditional love and unlimited patience to make healing a healthier process for everyone.


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