By Dr Phang Cheng Kar
6. Expose them to reading materials related to depression. Hopefully, they will have a better understanding of depression and are willing to seek help. For a free e-book on depression, “I’m Still Human: Understanding Depression with Kindness” by Dr. Phang, please refer to https://issuu.com/pckar/docs/imstillhuman
7. It is OK not to use the word ‘depression.’ Let them know that we are seeking help for sleep difficulty, poor appetite, body aches, tiredness, poor concentration – which are part and parcel of depression. Also consider the use of other more acceptable terms, e.g. ‘emotional flu’ or ‘severe stress,’ or ‘mood disorder.’
8. Remind them that whatever they tell the doctor is kept strictly confidential. No clinical information will be released without a patient’s consent, unless in emergency situations (e.g. suicide). Be aware of social stigma – do not unnecessarily reveal information to others.
9. If there is financial constraint, seek help from mental health services in government hospitals which is more affordable. Try to convince a person with depression that having depression and not being able to work is more ‘expensive’ in the long run.
10. Help to arrange appointments; remind them when the appointment date comes. Provide transport and accompany them for the consultation. Help them to relate their experience to the doctor, collect medicines, get the next appointment date, and remind them of treatment compliance.
Depression is a debilitating illness. Be kind and understanding to those suffering from depression. Try to gently explore the reasons for not seeking help. The reasons could be individual, e.g. believing that it is due to punishment from God. It could also be a perfectly understandable one, e.g. unpleasant experience with the previous psychiatrist. When we understand, we are able to care more effectively.