How do I get help for my depressed brother who won’t go for help?
anonymous Asks ...
My brother has a rough last 6 months or so. We lost our mom to cancer after a long and very tough battle and then he was blindsided by a job loss and his longtime girlfriend ending their relationship, all with the last couple of months.
Since that time he has been really knocked off kilter. He has always been a once or twice a week visitor at my place for dinner with my family but about 6 weeks ago he started coming around a lot less and for the last few weeks he hasn’t come at all. His friends also say he hasn’t been around much lately.
Now, every time I call in the middle of the day I catch him still in bed. He has never been a lazy person who would stay in bed all day so I know that this is a sign of something seriously wrong. When I ask him what’s up he says he has been having trouble sleeping lately so he is watching a lot of TV at night. When I ask him if he’s been looking for work he says that he has been, but judging by his appearance every time I go over and the growing stack of empty beer bottles in the garage I am not sure that he could have been looking very seriously.
I think, and my sister agrees with me, that he is depressed, and it is kind of understandable why he would be. I broached the subject with him and he agreed that he was feeling kind of down lately. I suggested that he go talk to someone about this and he kind of agreed that it would be a good idea but he hasn’t made any moves to actually doing anything about it. I feel like he knows that he needs some help but for some reason he can’t bring himself to actually go out and get it. I am very frustrated and worried. It’s like seeing someone with cancer admit that they have cancer but not be willing to go to the doctor for the treatment that could save their life.
How can I make someone who doesn’t want to help themselves (because of their depression) go and get the help that would make them feel better. It’s like a catch 22.
William Anderson Says ...
It doesn’t sound like your brother is resistant to getting help. Sometimes people who get clinically depressed get so down and so stuck that it seems like they are paralyzed. They can’t get up and face the day, go out or even make a phone call. I’ve had clients who were in bed for weeks and didn’t even go out to the mailbox to get the mail. They would try, but just couldn’t get themselves to do anything. That’s real clinical depression.
In clinical practice, it’s not at all unusual that the patient shows up for their first appointment driven there by a relative. Otherwise, they’d still be stuck in bed. The brother, sister, spouse or mother made the appointment for them and then showed up to drive them in. A high proportion of patients start their recovery from depression this way.
Expect that your brother needs this kind of help and will just get worse unless you intervene. Find a psychiatrist and call and to make sure he or she is taking new patients and explain that you want to bring your depressed brother in. Then set up a time for you and your sister to visit. When you visit and you all talk about getting better, tell him you want to set up an appointment for him to see someone, someone he can talk to who specializes in depression. When he agrees that it’s a good idea, call and make the appointment or leave a message with the doctor’s office right then and there. You make the appointment, and have your brother write it on his calendar. Then go and pick him up and go to the appointment with him. Do not count on him going on his own.
People who do not understand depression think that people should just “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” and that they need to “take responsibility”. This is ignorance that has created a lot of suffering.
Your brother is lucky to have family close by that cares and wants to help. Now you know what to do. Write back and let me know how it goes.