Medical professionals often remark on how helpful family members and friends can be in reporting changes in depressed patients' symptoms and ensuring that patients consistently take their prescribed medication.

Families need to work together in managing treatment, since mood changes and behaviors affect the whole family, and many issues are involved in treatment. Ways in which you can work as a team are to:

Questions for the Psychiatrist

A good way to partner in treatment and provide emotional support is to go to appointments periodically with the depressed person. You can keep track of the clinician's recommendations, discuss changes in symptoms, and review the treatment plan.

Before you see him
•    What types of patients and conditions do you currently treat in your practice?
•    What do you do when you are unsure of a patient's diagnosis or treatment?
•    How do you involve families and friends in treatment?

During the visit
•    What is the possible diagnosis at this point?
•    How definite is this diagnosis? If not definite, what are the other possibilities?
•    What your recommended treatment (e.g., medication, psychotherapy)?
•    What are the expected results of treatment?
•    What signs should we look for that indicate the therapy is working?
•    How soon will we see these signs?
•    What will you recommend if this course of therapy does not work?
•    Why have you chosen this particular medication?
•    What are the risks and side effects of the medication?
•    Is this a case that you normally treat and that is within your practice capabilities?
•    What role can we play in helping with treatment?
•    Which days and times are best to reach you?
•    Who can answer our questions as they come up and when you are unavailable?
•    What have your been your experiences with our insurance company and how can we facilitate the reimbursements?
•    Do you recommend that we get a consult with another psychiatric specialist?

If treatment is not working
•    Is there something else we need to be doing?
•    Are there any issues that may contribute to our family member or friend not responding to treatment (e.g., noncompliance with medication)?
•    How can we help in getting treatment to work?
•    Should we get a second opinion?

Helping Someone Receive Treatment             

 Families and friends often are unsure how to convince their loved ones to see a medical professional. In a compassionate way, explain to the person that you are concerned that he or she is showing symptoms of depression, a treatable medical condition. Often, people with depression feel very relieved to learn that they are suffering from a medical condition. Ask the person to see a medical professional, offer to make an appointment, and go with the person or call the doctor in advance to state the person's symptoms.

Helpful tips

What not to do

People with depression are suffering from a medical condition, not a weakness of character. It is important to recognize their limitations.

•    Do not dismiss their feelings by saying things like "snap out of it" or "pull yourself together."
•    Do not force someone who is depressed to socialize or take on too many activities that can result in failure and increased feelings of worthlessness.
•    Do not agree with negative views. Negative thoughts are a symptom of depression. You need to continue to present a realistic picture by expressing hope that the situation will get better.

When your help is refused

Often when you try to help someone who is depressed, your help is declined or nothing you do seems to help. You end up feeling rejected and discouraged that there is nothing more you can do.

Depressed people may reject your help because they feel they should be able to help themselves, and feel worthless when they can't. Instead, they may withdraw or start an argument in an effort to resolve their difficulties. In addition, people with depression have negative thoughts and feel so hopeless that they do not see recovery as a reality.

Fifty percent of people with bipolar disorder have a lack of insight, so they do not realize they are ill. For example, people with bipolar disorder may believe they are a "high-energy person." This makes family involvement in seeking and managing treatment even more critical.

With these difficulties in mind, what can you do if your help is turned away?

Helping someone who is depressed and reluctant to seek treatment can be very trying and frustrating. As much as possible, try to enlist the aid of family members, friends, and medical professionals in this process.