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What Can I Do For You?

Amy and I have five pages of type of things people should not say to someone who is experiencing depression. All of us have said some of them and all of us have caught others saying them to someone. We sorely need to erase those phrases from our speech.

The flip side is often we don’t know how to respond. What does one say in such a situation? Do you ask how is the depression today or do you suggest activities for involvement or do you just keep quiet?

Perhaps one of the best things to say, and to say it with sincerity is “What can I do for you?” For people who mean what they say, that opens the door for some real possibilities of help. And that means that the depressed individual or the caregiver must be ready to respond.

So I asked some people with depression and I asked their loved ones what could be done to help. Here’s some of the replies:

I could just use some space at time. I need to be alone. I want to be alone. I’m not going to hurt myself but being alone is a way I try to get myself together.  


I need people around me. I could go to the local coffee shop but sometimes it is just nice if someone drops over or calls and asks to come over. Not only does it give me people, it gives me the feeling that there are people who care enough about me that they want to spend some time with me.  


Bringing over dinner at times. I know that my overstressed and overtired family and I would appreciate that very much. Seems like people do that all the time for funerals or for people who are sick in the hospital. But depression isn’t a “seeable” illness so people don’t think we need the love and care that others in the hospital or at home with a physically-visible illness does.

and from a family member whose brother has depression:

Sometimes I just want someone to hug me. They don’t have to even say anything. I just need to know that I am still noticed, that my struggle in noticed, and that someone out there is willing to be there for me.hugging-571076_1280

As a depressed individual or as someone who loves a person who is depressed, what are you looking for from others?   The more all of us know, the more all of us can help stop the devastation being done by this illness.

– Bernadette .

Connect with Nature

nature walk

Recently the Washington Post gave a report of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found that the brain most positively reacts to walks done in natural environments than those done in cities and suburbs.

The study took 38 individuals who lived in cities and had no history of mental illness and had half of the group walk 90 minutes through a natural area and the other half through a downtown area.  The participants were asked before and after the walk to respond to a questionnaire designed to measure the “tendency toward rumination, a pattern of often negative, inward-directed thinking and questioning that has been tied to an increased risk of depression” according to many in the mental health field.

Not surprising was that those individuals who were on the nature walked showed a decrease in rumination and actually answered questions differently from before the walk and after.  Other tests done confirmed the findings.

The lead author of the study, Gregory Bratman, said, “This provides robust results for us that nature experience, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases, of mental illnesses like depression.”

We knew that walking and getting exercise was helpful in dealing with depression and in keeping an even keel when you are taking care of someone with depression.  But now we can look to those nature walks as doubly important in keeping the brain on a most positive track.

So, find a scenic nature walk near you and get out and moving on it at least once a week – more often if you can.  Your body, your brain and your family will benefit.

– Bernadette

Every journey is different.

Passing judgement. Offering advice. Speaking out of turn. Adults with no kids of their own (but who are certain they’d be perfect parents if they actually had kids) make lofty pronouncements about parenting. People with little experience or knowledge of brain illnesses make judgements about other peoples’ treatment choices.

It all needs to stop.

I found a great post this morning about a mom and her journey through ADHD with her son. Check out Look, It’s Something Shiny. Everything she had to say resonated with me, as the wife of a depressed and severely ADHD man and the mother of a moderately ADHD son.

Every human being is unique. Every illness is unique, including the many types of brain illnesses. Every path to healing and wholeness must therefore be unique. What works for one may not work for another. There is no one person who has every right answer.

So how about instead of judging or offering unsolicited advice we all just support each other? How about we consider how difficult each person’s journey is and honor their challenges, their pain and their decisions?

How about we just appreciate every individual for the unique creations they are?


Mental Health Over the Airwaves

The other day I was listening to a local pop station – not my usual choice, but I get a kick out of pop music on low-key, relaxed summer days – and heard an ad for a local psychiatric treatment facility. I suppose it caught my attention for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I’m always on the lookout for articles, information, and references to mental health.Then, too, the typical ad on this station is for laser hair removal, weight loss systems, liposuction, and tanning salons – note the trend? Psychiatric treatment is definitely outside the box in this setting.

credit to serviziovolontarioeuropeo.it

credit to serviziovolontarioeuropeo.it

The ad stated that mental/emotional health issues are real, common, and treatable. Certainly a good message to get out there, and I appreciate having it presented to an audience who, perhaps, might not have been exposed to it before.
On the other hand, the ad was clearly hawking a certain treatment facility. I have no idea what kind of reputation this place has – possibly many people have been helped there. But my guess would be, since they’re buying ad time, profit has to be a pretty strong motive.

My own experience with in-patient treatment for brain illnesses was not good. There was a point at the beginning of our journey when my husband was in such a bad way that I made the choice to hospitalize him in hopes of keeping him safe and finding a path to healing. We were forced, due to our not-so-great health insurance company, to place him in a facility that stripped him of dignity, ignored my concerns, and gave us very mixed and negative messages; it was a complete disaster. Before even the first 24 hours were up, I checked him out, for the well-being of both of us.

So, I’m wondering whether a facility that costs a bundle, as I suspect the one advertising on this pop station may, offers better treatment than what we experienced. If a family can afford this kind of treatment, that’s a good thing, right? Or are they just taking advantage of people who are hurting in a nightmarish situation?

Bottom line, I just don’t know. It was definitely food for thought.

No matter the treatment, death can result.


I just finished reading this article about Aaron Swartz and his death from suicide.  One of the statements in the piece gave me pause.  It reads: If Aaron Swartz was like most of the 100 people every day who take their own lives in this country, the biggest thing that likely led to his death was untreated or under treated depression………And at the time the person has taken their life, it is depression that is either not being treated at all, or being treated inadequately.

I’m not sure we can say that.  We might be able to say untreated depression can more quickly lead to suicide but inadequately treated, under treated? Continue reading