Attempting to support someone with depression can be a daunting and overwhelming challenge. Alternatively, if you are the one experiencing depression, you may find the whole family is being affected. Whilst everyone experiences low mood at times, depression is a mental illness in which an individual feels an intense sadness, or numbness, for a prolonged period of time (weeks or months), often without knowing why. In other cases, depression may have an identifiable cause, or may be the combination of several life events or continuing difficulties (e.g. unemployment). Depression is one of the most common mental health problems, with one in five people in Australia experiencing depression at some stage in their lives.

If a family member or loved one has depression, it is unlikely they will improve or recover on their own. However, depression is very treatable, and there are a wide range of options to combat depression and maintain long-term wellbeing. Regardless of whether your family member has sought treatment, or is yet to ask for help, emotionally supporting them can take a toll on you. It can be scary and frustrating to watch a loved one struggle with depression, without being able to solve their problems or improve their mood, despite your best efforts.

So, what does depression look like? Depression is characterised by a low mood and is considered to be a serious illness when:

  • The depressive mood state is severe
  • It lasts for 2 weeks or more
  • It interferes with one’s ability to function at home or work

Depression affects a person’s thoughts, behaviours, feelings, and physical well-being. Common signs which may indicate depression include:

  • Changes in behaviour:

- Being unable to enjoy hobbies or activities

- Lacking motivation

- Withdrawing from family and friends

- Not wanting to socialise as much or as often

  • Negative emotions and less ability to control those emotions. For example, feeling empty, hopeless, overwhelmed, guilty, insecure, angry or irritable, impatient, miserable, or tearful
  • Lowered self-esteem and self-worth
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Physical disturbances including:

- Constantly feeling tired

- Change in appetite

- Loosing or gaining weight

- Sleep disturbance

- Becoming run down

If a family member’s experience of depression is negatively impacting your own mood or functioning, and you think you would benefit from support, contact VCPS. Managing your concerns and stress is crucial in order to maximise your ability to cope with life’s daily challenges and thrive within all aspects of your life, including relationships, work or study. In seeking support for yourself, you will also be better equipped to support your family member.

The psychologists at VCPS are specialised in providing help. A psychologist may help by:

  • Educating you on depression, common experiences of people who have it, and the treatments that are effective in reducing the symptoms
  • Equipping you with the information and tools to support your loved one with depressive symptoms, and building up your skills in this area
  • Providing an emotional support for you to release any concerns or negative thoughts
  • Help you find ways to discuss the disorder with your family member and encourage them to accept help for it
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