Encouraging Someone to Seek Help for Depression: Framing the Issue

Photo by Steve Snodgrass - http://flic.kr/p/6PxGnk - For illustration only

Reader’s Question

I fear my father, who is 47 years old, might be depressed. He doesn’t appear to appreciate either himself or what he has. He works long hours at an emotionally and physically stressful job. He seems to feel alone and isolated.

My father is VERY nostalgic, and constantly compares the present to the past. He believes the past years were better times.

I believe my father’s feelings may be due to unfulfilled expectations. As a young man, he was very ambitious, but life was hard. He is not the type to talk about his feelings, as he sees it as a sign of weakness. He is untrusting of medication, and will not go to a psychiatrist, or consider alternative treatments. We have tried to show him we love him and support him, but it does not seem to register.

What can I do to help him?

Psychologist’s Reply

Depression is not a singular condition, but rather a continuum of mood disturbance that can vary in quality as well as degree. So, while a person might not be in the throes of a major depressive episode, it’s still possible for a person to suffer from some degree of dysphoria (unpleasant feelings), dysthymia (chronic and low-level sadness), or melancholia (mourning or moroseness) and for those conditions to negatively impact their ability to function on a daily basis.

Just as there are many types and levels of depression, there are different levels and types of intervention. Some persons benefit from the use of certain medications. Some respond to purely supportive counseling. Some benefit from psychotherapy or other non-medical interventions. But there’s no way to know exactly what the issues are and how to best deal with them in the absence of a thorough evaluation.

While there’s no single best way to encourage a person to get help, there are some things concerned family members can do to help someone, especially an older person, get the treatment they need.

First, it’s important to frame the issue as one of concern about overall health. Sometimes, people who are struggling with some level of depression are hesitant to acknowledge problems because they see it as a sign of personal weakness. This can be especially true for those who have always championed their independence and strength. It’s also difficult for such folks to entrust their welfare to another. So, it’s important to let the person know that overall health is the main concern and that at least a “check up” is in order.

Try Online Counseling: Get Personally Matched
(Please read our important explanation below.)

Second, it’s important to be sure that the person retains a sense of personal empowerment and control. The person afflicted needs to know that others are there for support but not to infringe upon personal autonomy or decision-making.

Third, it’s critical to frame the need for help in a positive way and with positive expectations. Folks who mourn the loss of “happier times” need to be encouraged that such times can be experienced once again and reassured that there are many options open to them to help them feel like their old selves.

With encouragement, reassurance, and support, you can help your father address his health concerns and recover the joy now missing in his life.

Please read our Important Disclaimer.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. Originally published by on and last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Ask the Psychologist provides direct access to qualified clinical psychologists ready to answer your questions. It is overseen by the same international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals — with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe — that delivers CounsellingResource.com, providing peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. CounsellingResource.com is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Copyright © 2022.