Depression, Our Loved Ones, and the Holidays
Dec 2, 2019
During the holidays, we often find ourselves in the company of friends and family who suffer from depression. Silence is depression's best friend. We are often afraid to ask our loved ones if they are depressed and, especially if they are thinking about harming themselves.
How can we help? We can help by checking our own attitudes. We can remind ourselves that depression is an illness. No one is immune. The overwhelming majority of families will have had someone who is or has suffered from depression. Although depression certainly has spiritual implications, we should never suggest to a depressed loved one that they can pray their way out of depression, or that their depression is due to a lack of faith. Like anyone who is ill, a person with depression needs, love, support, understanding, encouragement, and our prayers.
How can we help? We can let our loved ones know we are there for them. We can share our concerns and ask questions. We might say, “It seems like you’ve been having a hard time lately. I've been wondering what's on your mind?” Our loved ones may want to talk about what they are going through, but they might not want advice. We can ask questions to get more information instead of assuming we understand what they mean. We can validate their feelings without judgment. We might say, “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry to hear that.” MOST OF ALL, WE CAN LISTEN. Our depressed friends and family may not feel like talking the first time we ask, so it can help to continue telling them we care.
How can we help? We can encourage treatment. Depression is treatable. Everyone who is clinically depressed should seek professional care. Do not be afraid that mental health professionals will be hostile to your loved one's religious faith. All good therapists are respectful of their patients' religious beliefs.
Be aware that depression is often complicated by anxiety, substance abuse, and a range of behavioral and emotional problems. Also, depression often carries with it a risk of suicide. Sadly, many who die by suicide were believed by their loved ones to be incapable of suicide. Do not be afraid to ask a depressed loved one if they are having thoughts of self-harm. If they say they are, do all you can to encourage treatment of, if the person is in treatment, and that their doctor/therapist is made aware of the suicidal feelings. Depending on the specific circumstances, if you are with a suicidal person, it may be appropriate to call their doctor or therapist, to call 911, or to take them to a hospital emergency room.
Here are some resources:
Depression Facts: WebMD
WebMD offers an excellent and comprehensive webpage on depression. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-overview-facts
The Crisis Center
offers both voice and text-based counseling and referral for suicidal individuals and their families. https://crisiscenterbham.org/crisis-intervention-prevention/crisis-intervention-prevention.php
PIRC (Psychiatric Intake Response Center):
Navigating the mental health care system is challenging for patients, families, and providers. The Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC), located in the Emergency Department at Children’s of Alabama, is a confidential psychiatric response center designed to assist patients, their loved ones and/or caregivers, and community providers in finding the appropriate level of mental health care. These services are provided via telephone or in person by licensed mental health clinicians trained to assess a child or teen’s mental, emotional, and behavioral needs and recommend the best treatment options.
- Any adult with a mental health question or concern regarding a child or adolescent is encouraged to contact the PIRC at 205-638-PIRC (7472)
- PIRC is open seven days a week, year-round from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Anyone experiencing a crisis should call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.
- Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should call the 24-hour, 7 day a week National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
ALL IN MOUNTAIN BROOK YOUTH SUICIDE RESOURCE PAGE
Our neighbors in Mountain Brook have a webpage with extensive information and resources for being aware and preventing youth suicide. Click here.
We can remember to pray for our loved ones who are troubled in mind and spirit.
Give us the strength and wisdom to know that just as our bodies suffer from illness, so it is with our minds and our spirits. We pray that you will bring comfort and healing to all of us who suffer from depression, addiction, and all mental illness. Help us to have the courage and patience to help our loved ones who are depressed. Help us to work to seek out the care our loved ones need, and to seek out a community and nation when all of us are able to receive that care.