The family is a system. When a family member has depression, it can cause a disruption to this system, while it can significantly impact other family members and the family unit as a whole. Depression is an illness that can divide a family or help bring it closer together. It is important that the family is aware of what it needs to do to support the family member affected by the depression and themselves.
Depression can drive some family members apart. Some may not want anything to do with the person affected or may not know how to deal with the person who has the illness. Other family members may do the opposite; they become over involved and try to do the best they can to heal the individual. Depression can be difficult for a family, especially when its members do not understand how they can support the affected person. Family members should educate themselves about depression, assist the individual in getting the appropriate treatment and support the individual by listening and helping monitor her symptoms. Safety and suicide risk should also be a major concern for family members.
When a family member is depressed, it can lead to the other members who neglect their own self-care. It can also lead to problems in other relationships and obligations separate from the family. It is important for family members to find ways they can take respite. Talking to friends, other family members or a counselor may be helpful in setting healthy boundaries. Coming up with a plan to help assist the affected individual--while also taking care of you--is important.
Anger and Stress
When someone in the family is depressed, it can cause stress for the rest of the other family members. Some persons may develop resentment or feel anger at the person who is depressed. It is important for family members to understand that depression is an illness. The depressed person is not choosing to be depressed. Speaking with a therapist, going to family therapy or joining a support group for families sometimes assists families in understanding this illness and how to cope with it. Sometimes, a family member's anger or reaction to the illness can exacerbate the illness, so it is important to develop a healthy way of coping with it.
The Families for Depression Awareness website reports that families who discuss depression and increase their understanding of it achieve long-term positive change in family functioning and increased resiliency in children. Many resources are available to provide family members with education, as well as a chance to advocate for other individuals affected by depression.