• Resolving Problems

Where Can My Depressed Friend Get Help?

October 31, 2013 | By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
Sometimes a depressed friend needs more help than any friend, even a good one, can provide.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I have a friend (for the past 20 years) who is extremely negative and depressed, impossible to deal with, irrational and who is completely draining me. Any and all suggestions I give to better her situation are repeatedly dismissed.

She “vents” angrily to me on a regular basis about how life is so unfair and how the world is playing a cruel joke on her. She has said many times recently that she’s “on the edge” and “about to lose it” or “at her wits end.” Many of these (mostly one sided) conversations end with me feeling frustrated or angry or in tears.

She is, I believe, clinically depressed. She is 44 and is suffering from chronic pain due to fibromyalgia and scoliosis along with depression. In the past, doctors have prescribed antidepressants but they make her gain weight. She refuses to take them because of this, saying that if she gains another pound she will kill herself. She is also in debt and doing credit card counseling. I see clearly that she repeats the same mistakes over and over again and is always disappointed that nothing works out for her.

She is desperately lonely but has had many men interested in her and every time, she ends up dumping them and then is back to being lonely again.

I have read about many similar issues on your blog and you usually recommend that they seek treatment for depression.

My question is: How does someone who can’t afford treatment get help? There seems to be a disconnect for my friend in this area. She has a job that provides health insurance but cannot afford to pay for the doctor visits or medications.

Is there any help for someone in this situation? Do we have to wait for her to actually “go crazy” to the point of losing her job and apartment for her to get any help?

Signed, Vera

ANSWER

Hi Vera,

It is very common for people who are depressed either to deny their problems and/or to resist seeking treatment. That can make it tough on the family and friends who care about them. Often the sense of hopelessness and lack of energy you describe in your friend is associated with depression itself. No matter what you say or do, it’s impossible to talk the person out of it or lift their spirits.

Since your friend is likely being treated for her chronic pain, the first step should be for her to speak to her primary care doctor, rheumatologist, or pain management specialist to assess whether her pain is being adequately treated, and whether her depression may be related to any of the medications she is currently taking to manage her health problems. You might encourage your friend to allow you to accompany her on this visit both to help her remember to ask the right questions and to act as a second set of ears to listen to the doctor’s recommendations.

At this appointment, your friend needs to be honest and let her doctor know how she is feeling. He/she may be able to confirm whether or not she is clinically depressed and if so, prescribe antidepressant medication. Even if she didn’t have luck taking an antidepressant in the past, newer drugs have come on the market and not all antidepressants are associated with weight gain.

If the doctor isn’t comfortable prescribing an antidepressant or other psychotropic medications, or thinks she needs other health and social supports as well, he/she might be able to refer her to a local mental health program, either run by government or a voluntary agency that serves people on a sliding cost scale based on their means. A social worker or case manager may be available on staff to assist her with her problems on an ongoing basis.

If your friend is unwilling to go the route of speaking to her physician, there are two organizations in the U.S. that might be able to provide your friend with information and support. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a grassroots organization with more than 1000 local affiliates across the nation that provide support for individuals with mental disorders and for their families and friends.

Admittedly, the mental health system is under-resourced, confusing, and can be daunting to maneuver, especially for someone who is depressed. For these reasons, it can be very helpful for your friend to link up with people who know the resources in your local community. Most NAMI offices have helplines to assist you in finding care. Ideally, it would be great if your friend could make this call on her own; if not, you may want to call and find out the information for her. Many of the people manning the phones have family members who experienced similar problems.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is another nonprofit that offers advice for people with mood disorders, including local peer support groups, to help people connect with appropriate care.

Clearly, it sounds like with all her problems, your friend needs far more help that you can provide as a friend. The best thing you can do is encourage her to get professional help.

If your friend sounds like she may be a risk to herself, a free 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is available to people in crisis (or their loved ones) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Calls are routed to local crisis centers. In the UK or Ireland, Samaritans offers confidential support at 08457 90 90 90.

I hope this is helpful. Check in and let us know how things go.

Best, Irene


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Category: Depressed friends

Comments (8)

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  1. L.L. says:

    since not many on this blog see the value in prayer or want people to mention it, i will forego the talk about the spiritual battle your friend is in the midst of. BOTTOM LINE, YOUR FRIEND IS LIKELY ALLERGIC TO WHEAT, SIMPLE CURE. many who are depressed are so because they have un-diagnosed allergies, the food makes them depressed because its poison to and over time they get so toxic with it, it drives them nutty. if your friend has insurance she can get an allergy test and she should seek the counsel of a holistic doctor who believes in curing people not treating them (pills and drugs for lifetime of office visits and prescriptions).
    as to the internal battle, seems you friend self sabotages and does not want to get better. she is blaming God or the universe for all her problems when it really has to do with ones attitude, spiritual life, self honesty, personal responsibility, and the desire to grow up. these are hard subjects to approach if they belong to a person who is depressed. get her off the toxic food elements in her diet and she will clam down, then she can work on herself and her internal condition.
    know that wheat allergies also produce fibromyalga (wish docs could be honest and help others get better, clearly they are more interested in the fees they get from keeping people sick). remember its not about controlling or masking depression its about curing it forever without meds. most who go off wheat completely never get depressed again. not saying this is your friends toxic element but an allergy test will tell you what she needs to eliminate to cure herself. i hope this helps. you can read the success stories on the internet.

  2. gayle says:

    Why does every this g I read on websites assume all people with fibromyalgia are depressed? I have had it for 23 years and accept and deal with it. Other people reject me and even yell at me because I am happy. Also depression is not a symptom of fms, it occurs at the same rate as in general population. Fms has genetic factor involved. People in usa are hung up on bodies and health and so abuse anyone who isn’t in perfect shape. I am a cheerful optimistic christian and people hate e for that.

  3. Alberta says:

    I wonder if marijuana could help your friend – she could smoke it in a water pipe (which takes out the tar) or vaporizer – so it wouldn’t be hard on her lungs. It is good for depression and for many chronic conditions. This can also help turn off the ‘negative’ channel in the brain and help focus on the creative side of life.

    Also if your friend could watch the documentary 65 red roses – it might change her perspective and see her fortunes in life rather than her misfortunes. No matter how bad one may think they have it Eva had cystic fibrosis and fought with everything – and passed away at 25 – it is heartwarming and heartbreaking and makes you see things differently and hard to feel sorry for yourself when you see what she went through. If she saw this it might change her perspective.

    • Irene says:

      Alberta,

      Thanks for commenting and being supportive of Vera. However, I am unaware of any scientific evidence that marijuana is an efficacious treatment for depression—nor is it approved for that use in the U.S.

      Best, Irene

      • jacqueline says:

        Maybe Alberta was talking about using marijuana for medicinal purposes? Here in Quebec, the government is trying to get a law passed that marijuana helps diminish pain…and they are hoping to legalize it to help put drug dealers out of business. They would have to pay taxes, like us.

    • Amy says:

      I’d be interested to see a large scale, scientific study that linked medical marijuana as effective, long term treatment for depression. I’m in favor of medical mj prescribed and overseen by a doctor and I’m not opposed to adult recreational use where it’s legal. I know this recommendation is coming from a place of support, but worry without knowing the woman’s clinical history that relying on medical/psychiatric professionals for help is the way to go.

  4. Amy says:

    You’re a good friend for trying to help your friend. It sound like she could benefit from therapy and possibly meds, Medication might help, but it doesn’t work in a vacuum so if there are situational issues your friend needs to address, like dealing with the stress of chronic illness, therapy can help her build coping mechanisms and a greater support network. Her physicians may be able to help her with medication, but if her depression is complex or she needs a cocktail of meds, a psychiatrist might be the route to go. But, all this is contingent on her willingness to engage in treatment and her commitment to following through with the process.
    Many agencies have sliding scale payments, you can probably find some of them in the blue pages of your phone book. Catholic Social Services is one that comes to mind, you don’t need to be Catholic and their mental health services aren’t religious oriented (though I probably wouldn’t use them if she were making a decision about abortion etc.). Most counties have mental health agencies that provide therapy and psychiatry on a sliding scale. If you live near a university, the often have therapy centers that use well-supervised student interns for free or low cost. If your friend can afford treatment, but doesn’t prioritize her health (mental or otherwise) as a priority, she might not qualify. Additionally, psychiatrists often have samples of medications, but may save those for people who actually have no insurance.
    Unfortunately, there’s little you can do if your friend is adamantly uninterested in treatment or if she thinks a pill (one that won’t make her gain weight) will solve all her problems. As her friend, I’d look for ways that I might be enabling her not to seek help, and if I was doing that, I’d stop. Am I playing psuedo-therapist by listening to problems that would be better addressed by a professional, thus giving her an excuse that she really doesn’t need a professional since she has me? If I am, then I’m not being the best friend I can be, and I need to set boundaries so she doesn’t use me when a professional would be more helpful. Sometimes being a good friend means stepping back.
    I hope your friend is open to your suggestions. Good luck!

  5. What a depressing situation (pun intended). I had a friend/ coworker who was making me crazy. She was chronically unhappy and so mercurial that she could erupt like Mt. Vesuvious and lash out. Someone finally got her to try 75 mgs of effexor. It was like a miracle. Her rages are controlled and she herself can identify situations where she is now able to remain calm and rational where in the past, she would have lost it and lashed out. Her job is bona fiedly stressful. I realize that a lot of people are opposed to meds, but having seen how the right medication was so effective, I hope your friend will try to find the right one to help her.

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