Author Topic: How to reach out to someone who is perhaps depressed (no medical advice please!)  (Read 1703 times)

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Fleur

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Hello,

I have a friend who I think may be depressed. The reason I have not picked up on this before is that my friend is ninety four years old. Thus, I have attributed her feeling low sometimes to the process of age. She is long widowed. I love my friend dearly, and I feel that I should perhaps have picked up on this before. I would like to see her happier. Where my etiquette question comes in is: is there any non-offensive, kind way of suggesting she sees a doctor? She has family, but sometimes I think she confides in me more than in at least some of them. I would like a non-intrusive way of wording this. If people think I'm out of line, I'm more than happy to hear that as well. I just want to do what's best for her.

GLaDOS

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How often do you spend time with her? Is it possible to take her out for lunch or dinner and a play or something?
I mean, if you're close, it might be easier to say something general like"Friend, I've noticed you're not your usual sparkling self, and you haven't been for a while. Are you doing okay?" if you see her more than once a month or two. If she opens up and says that yes, she is feeling low, you might suggest that she see a doctor then.

I would, though, caution that you still remain a friend, and not focus completely on her mental and emotional health. If someone's feeling low, they may just wish to escape it for a while with good company.

Your heart's in the right place, though, and I hope everything goes well for the both of you!
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Fleur

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How often do you spend time with her? Is it possible to take her out for lunch or dinner and a play or something?
I mean, if you're close, it might be easier to say something general like"Friend, I've noticed you're not your usual sparkling self, and you haven't been for a while. Are you doing okay?" if you see her more than once a month or two. If she opens up and says that yes, she is feeling low, you might suggest that she see a doctor then.

I would, though, caution that you still remain a friend, and not focus completely on her mental and emotional health. If someone's feeling low, they may just wish to escape it for a while with good company.

Your heart's in the right place, though, and I hope everything goes well for the both of you!

I have tried inviting her out, but she doesn't want to go places so much these days. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that her age isn't to blame at all. Ninety four is very old, and in many ways, she is doing very well for that age. But it is sad to see her not want to even go for a short walk any more, and last week she put me off a visit, just saying she was tired. I know that she gets lonely, and I do try to see her as often as I can. I definitely agree with your advice not to come over too heavy and talk too much about medical issues. I just think that it might be an idea to bring it up briefly.

dawbs

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"Friend, I'm truly glad you feel comfortable sharing this with me but, this is a problem bigger than I can help with and bigger than you should have to handle on your own.  Have you talked to your doctor about this?"
(I've used variations on that, they varied dramatically, depending on the person)

Calypso

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Bless your heart for being such a good friend.

I've been dealing with depression for about 35 years at this point, and see no likelihood that it's ever going to *not* be a part of my life (if you had told me, when I was diagnosed about 20 years ago, that it wasn't going to go away forever with treatment.....well, I sure would have not wanted to believe you).

Certainly you can suggest she mention the possibility to her doctor. If this *is* something new for her, there is a good chance treatment could change things radically. I don't want to get into medical advice here, but, from a patient's standpoint, a lot of times your condition makes you think you can't be helped, so it might be good for an outsider to point out that, yes, it *is* worth mentioning to her MD (especially if he or she is a geriatric specialist).

As a friend, I think the two kindest things you can do are 1) Don't let *her* get *you* down. Being in the company of healthy people is great for me, although sometimes I can only manage it in small doses. If you can get her to socialize with you, even if it's just watching a DVD or listening to music or going out to lunch, that's great, and try not to let the interaction focus solely on her and her feelings----if possible, try to talk about yourself, about what's going on in the world.

and, 2) have tolerance for what she can't do. I'm having a lower-than-usual period this last couple of months and have had to cancel out twice on planned social visits with friends. I'm not pleased with myself for doing that, but I'm very grateful those friends are being patient about it.

I wish her, and you, well.

ETA: just read your update. That sounds like depression, all right. Don't let a number (94) fool you. It's great that you keep going to see her. Try doing something that surprises her in a nice way----bring some flowers or a kind of ice cream she likes or something related to an interest she has. Sometimes that little brain-chemistry jolt of good surprise can divert the waters of sadness into a friendlier path for awhile.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2012, 05:55:44 PM by Calypso »

Fleur

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Thank you, everyone, for your advise. Calypso, thank you for sharing your story, it is very moving. My friend doesn't get me down: I am just truly sorry that she is lonely. She talks about other people a lot-she isn't especially self-focussed. It is just that when she does talk about herself, she seems down on herself and anxious about her failing memory. It also bothers me that she seems to be getting more and more tired, but that is really probably just a function of age. As far as actual depression goes, I have a mild version myself, but I am on successful medication for it. This change in my life has made me feel more strongly that nobody should feel terrible, however young, old, etc. Everyone deserves to be well. But I don't want to be bossy or intrusive, and seem like too much of a 'fixer'.

Ticia

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 This is a medical/mental health issue, not an etiquette one. Best of luck to you and your friend, Fleur.
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