The 5 E’s: Depression in the Family; What Can I Do When I Can’t Do Anything?

October 3rd, 2018

As difficult as clinical depression is for the person experiencing the debilitating symptoms, it is likewise difficult and emotionally draining for the family members to witness the day-to-day struggle their loved one has to bear. This “out-of-control” feeling can greatly affect family members and can often have a negative impact on the patient. Not wanting to be a “burden” on the family, the depressed person might not talk about the deep dark hole they feel surrounds them. 

In turn, the family member begins to worry more and more as they are left to guess why their loved one is so isolative. Without intervention, this cycle persists and causes negative consequences for the patient and the family. However, with the 5 E’s, the cycle can be broken, and the family member can have a positive impact, leaving a hopeful outcome for the patient and themselves.

1. Educate

It is extremely helpful to learn as much as you can about depression and the symptoms and thought patterns that develop as a result if it is left untreated. What might be misinterpreted as “lazy” to a family member, might actually be the severe lack of motivation or interest for the depressed patient. A depressed patient might appear to be disinterested in a conversation, but in reality, they could be struggling to concentrate, flooded with simultaneous negative thoughts.

It is equally as important to educate yourself about all of the best treatment options for depression in Martin County, FL available, including support groups, individual therapy, and newer treatment options, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy. One great website, is an excellent resource of information, both in general and specific to a location, for patients and family members.

2. Ear

Once the family member has some basic knowledge and understanding about the signs of clinical depression, the next important step is to listen and be an “ear” for the patient. This can bring a huge relief to the depressed person, simply to get these thoughts and emotions out and shared with someone they trust. The family member does not have to solve the problem then and there; they just need to be an ear.  

3. Empathy

Knowing that you have listened, demonstrate to your depressed loved one that you understand that they are suffering and paraphrase how they are feeling back to them. You might even cry too; it’s ok, just keep the focus on them. Remind them that they are not alone, and that these symptoms will not hold them captive forever.  

4. Empower

Now that the emotions are out in the open, it is important to remind your loved one of their strengths. Use concrete examples such as times in their lives they exemplified courage, stamina, compassion, integrity, and perseverance. If available, use photographs of accomplishments in the past or victories that will bolster their confidence and encourage them down the path of healing. Remind them that there is strength in asking for help.

5. Encourage

Here is the point where the plan is set; lay out all of the options that you researched in the first “E” phase, educate. This is the time to encourage the patient to use that strength and courage they possess and get the help they need. Help is out there and available. Offer to go with them, if they are comfortable. This is the culmination where all of the steps you have taken up to this point for your loved one will show their importance, and how important you are in getting your depressed family member help. You, the family member, are an integral part of that help; you can do something, you can do more than something, you can do a lot, and that can be everything for your loved one.     

Explore TMS, the best treatment for depression in Broward County, FL, and the surrounding areas by contacting SuccessTMS at 561-240-0194.

— Dr. Lindsay Israel