How Can I Help Her to Walk Out From This Tunnel of Darkness?

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Reader’s Question

I’m seeking help for my mum. She has been suffering from major depression since she had me 17 years ago. She keeps saying that she wants to commit suicide. She has even tried hanging herself with a rope, and using gas fumes from the stove.

She shivers with cold most of the time and she has endless joint pains. She even lacks the courage to go out and face her friends. All she does is sleep all day long, and she recently she has begun eating a lot.

We’ve sought help from the psychiatrist, but the drugs are only able to calm her nerves and let her lie down. I know this won’t do.

Please tell me how I can help her to walk out from this tunnel of darkness.

Psychologist’s Reply

This is a very weighty question and even heavier coming from a 17-year-old. You have a heavy load on your shoulders. Fortunately, you have a psychiatrist who can take responsibility. You are critically important to her well-being and your own, but you don’t have to make the plan or the intervention yourself.

Because of the rules of confidentiality, the psychiatrist may not want to talk to you about her. However, psychiatrists will listen to what you have to say. If he or she doesn’t have time to sit down with you (which would be best), then write it out as you have here and give it to the nurse. Written notes like this become important documents in your mother’s chart. They become part of her permanent record.

What you say is important. Doctors tend to take your words even more seriously when they are written down.

When you, your family, and the doctor decide on a treatment plan, your mother can start getting better. In the meantime, you can better help her by preparing yourself to be an active part of her recovery.

It must fill you with heartache to see your mother like this, to know that it started with her pregnancy with you, and to be consumed by her depression when your peers are out being 17. I wonder whether there’s someone you can talk to about your feelings — perhaps you have friends who you can talk to, or a therapist at school or on a hotline. Taking care of yourself might be the best way to help her. Then, when you have a plan and you know what to do, you’ll be rested, clear headed and ready to help.

Take care of yourself. Your mother will be getting a lot of attention soon. But you, since you are not the patient, may not be getting so much attention. You’re a very special person; try not to let your mother’s depression become your own.

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