Ask Dr. Joy: Mental Health Awareness Month

By WEEK Reporter

October 26, 2010 Updated Oct 27, 2010 at 12:19 PM CDT

We commonly focus on those who are experiencing depression or other mental health concerns, but what about those who are living with someone who is experiencing these disorders.

How can a loved one encourage someone to get help, or what do you do when their mental health is ruining your relationship.

The impact of depression in America:
• 15 million adult Americans suffer with depression each year

• 6 million adults suffer with other mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders

• But 50% of those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia never reach out for help. And statistics show that almost the same rate of depressed people never ask for help as well

No one would want to be depressed or have mental health disorders. So why don’t people reach out for help?

• Some suffer from shame and feel immobilized to get help

• Some have impaired judgement that keeps them from getting help

• Some feel too vulnerable to reach out

We have all seen the commercials with the little cartoon person, and the saying that says, “depression hurts.”

But depression also hurts those who live with someone who has depression.

What are some things we can do to help someone they love who has depression?

• Be gentle. Show support and tell your loved one how much you care

• Stop nagging. Don’t get into a debate about who is right and who is wrong. Ask questions to find out how you loved one feels

• Suggest that your loved one goes to their PCP. It is easier to get most people who are depressed to agree to see their physician versus a psychologist or psychiatrist.

• Work with your loved one and offer to go with them to the physician or a mental health professional. This type of support might help them feel safer to reach out for help

• Get help for yourself. Meet with a therapist and learn ways to deal with your concerns, frustrations, and discover problem solving techniques.

• Gain support from your support system. Remember that it is essential that you stay connected to others and not isolate

• Remember if you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.

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