By Dr Phang Cheng Kar
Major Depression (clinical depression) is a serious medical illness that negatively affects the way we feel, think, or act. It can lead to various emotional and physical problems and impair a person’s ability to function at work and home. Fortunately, depression is a treatable condition. But encouraging someone with depression to seek help can be challenging. Here are some ways to make it easier:
Repeatedly assure them, “Having depression doesn’t mean that you are weak. It probably means that you have been strong for too long – we care for you, we want you to be happy, let us help you.” Reassure them that willingness to seek help is a sign of bravery – courage is not the absence of fear; it is acting in spite of fear.
Having someone in the family or community whom the person respects and trusts, e.g. clergy, family doctor, a good friend to encourage them will likely make the session more successful. Repeatedly and consistently convey the message, “Depression is not weakness; it’s an illness.”
Share with them that there are many people who have depression, including many celebrities and successful people. If you have gone through depression yourself, you may also share your experience if you are comfortable with it.
Seek help from a general medical practitioner first. Due to social stigma, this is more acceptable than consulting a mental health professional. Seeking help from a counselor may also be more acceptable than a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.
Consulting a private mental health professional may be more acceptable because you get an earlier appointment (within a day or week), a preferred day and time for consultation, and the availability of a regular doctor in each appointment.