How to Deal With a Depressed Mother
Dealing with a depressed family member never comes easy, but when depression affects your mother, the roles flip, and you have to become the responsible one 1. Depression can cause many problems for your mom, including feeling extremely sad or experiencing fatigue. This can lead to relationship and work problems as well. Treatment such as medication and therapy can reduce these symptoms, allowing your mom to live a more normal life.
Get familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression and spend some time reading material about the disorder. According to the 2002 Psychology Today article "Depression: A Family Matter," understanding your mother's symptoms are important for getting her help 1. Once you understand the issues surrounding depression, you'll probably have more patience, know how to respond to your mom and have a better understanding of the treatment options.
Ask your mom to see her primary care physician or a therapist to discuss the symptoms she's experiencing. Due to depression, your mom will lack motivation and energy to make and attend the appointment, so it'd be helpful if you made the appointment for her and went with her the first time. The Florida International University article "How Can Family And Friends Help The Depressed Person?" recommends that you monitor your mother's treatment plan to ensure that she is following through on taking her medication and attending her therapy sessions 3.
Encourage your mom to continue to go to therapy and take her medication, even if she starts to feel better. The reason she feels better is due to the treatment. If she insists on stopping her medication, talk to her doctor first. He might recommend that she take a lower dose to wean herself off the medication and to prevent the symptoms of depression from recurring.
Check in with your mom on a regular basis, especially if you don't live with her. Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to stop by the house regularly as well. If her symptoms of depression seem to be worsening, contact her therapist. If your mom stops taking care of her personal hygiene, stops eating and isolates herself, you should intervene.
Learn the signs of suicidal thinking such as talking about and glorifying death, saying goodbye, giving away prized possessions, getting her affairs in order and a sudden change from depression to calm. If your mom displays any signs of suicidal thinking, you need to get her immediate help to stabilize her mood. Don't leave her alone. Contact her therapist, call a suicide hot line, call 911 or take her to your local psychiatric emergency room. Take all signs of suicidal intention seriously to prevent a tragedy.
Don't expect your mom to improve too quickly. Most antidepressants take weeks to become effective, and she may need months or years of therapy. Practice patience with her and offer her emotional support.
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