Depression: A Family Affair

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depressed man
Depression affects more than just the sufferer. Read on for solutions to alleviate the struggle.

I've never been a fan of statistics. They can serve as interesting fodder at a cocktail party but the information never accounts for variances, under-reporting and a host of issues behind the scenes that never get revealed. That being said, when you begin to examine the numbers of those struggling with depression, you start to see that this is truly a national (and even global) issue. The Center for Disease Control notes that one in 10 Americans will be affected, but this doesn’t account for how this insidious disease impacts the rest of the sufferer’s world. When a spouse, family member, friend or colleague is clinically depressed, the effect reverberates throughout their entire nucleus. What do you do, if you are at the center of the storm, watching your partner or loved one plummeting into a sea of despair?

Use Your Resources – All those affected need support. It's imperative that you utilize the tools available to facilitate relief. Try seeking your own therapy to create an outlet for your emotions and get vital information that will educate you on the disease. Think about sharing your journey with people you trust and ask them to step in when you need a break. Meditate. Breathe Deeply. Participate in your favorite hobbies. Journal your feelings and even acknowledge to yourself that this is a trying period. Denial exacerbates the struggle and help will be your salvation. If cost is an issue, seek out support groups to connect with others that share your trials or contact a low fee mental health clinic that offers sliding scale counseling.

Make a Choice to Let Go of the Guilt – It's crucial to understand that you didn't cause the depression. When someone we love hurts, we hurt too. That pain can cloud our decision-making and ability to reason, blinding us to reality. We become convinced that if we had only done things differently, the situation wouldn’t have come to pass. This simply isn't true. While interactions are a dance between individuals, depression's root cause is either chemical, situational or both. If you weren't in the picture, your loved one would still have the same coping mechanisms and/or genetics that lead them to feel overwhelmed to begin with. In short: different situation, same outcome. If you find that you aren't able to fully let go of the feeling that you caused their depression, try viewing it as unproductive or unhelpful. In a quiet moment, ask yourself what you think holding onto the guilt actually does for you. Are you gaining any benefit from it? You'll soon see that it's more of a hindrance than a help. 

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Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT

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Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT

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