1.Remember that it is an illness:
Clinical depression often requires medical supervision as well as professional treatment. Clinical depression is treatable and requires commitment, understanding and patience from all those involved.
2.It is not your fault:
Clinical depression is usually a combination of chemical imbalance and learned behaviors. There may be times when the depressed individual is extremely sensitive, argumentative and/or blaming towards you, the children, the in-laws, the boss and even the world. All the above mentioned are not the cause. What you are responsible for is how you choose to take on the outward symptoms and how they affect you, your home and your relationships.
3.Be well informed:
Educate yourself on what type of depression is present and if there is a dual diagnosis
IE: chemical dependency and depression or personality disorders and depression. Know what the symptoms, treatments and follow-ups are. There are suggested guidelines for communication and setting boundaries. Though the illness is not your fault; it benefits you and your family to remain open minded and willing to learn new ways of doing things.
4.Make sure to have a support network:
Depression and dual diagnosis affects the whole family. There are many ranges of emotions from anger and fear to hopefulness and hopelessness. Having others that have experienced it before can help eliminate unhealthy coping mechanisms such as isolation, shame, control and low self-esteem. There are many national and local support groups available on line. For more information check with your favorite search engines or call a local and/or national mental health hotline.
5.Make time for yourself and your children:
Don't fall into the trap of not taking care of yourselves. Misery and fear love company. Living with and loving someone who is clinically depressed can be incredibly draining. Do not become a hostage or enabler. Remember your flight instructions: "For those traveling with small children; place the oxygen mask on yourself first and then assist the children."
6.Be a victor not a victim:
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional:
We are all going to feel pain in life never mind a home with mental illness. Surround yourselves with knowledge, self-care, experienced support and nurturing. There are no such things as victims only volunteers.
7.Recognize that clinical depression is episodic
Clinical depression comes in waves. People with clinical depression do get better!
8.Understand that medication takes time to work:
In most cases, improvement takes as long as 6-8 weeks. Even early responders require about 3-4 weeks before they notice mood improvement. Even after a person with clinical depression feels better, she or he needs to stay on medication at least six months. People should never stop taking medication on their own; medical supervision is a must. There can be serious physical and emotional complications from sudden withdrawal such as increased depression and suicidal tendencies.
9.Medication alone is fairly ineffective:
Research shows that medication in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy is more effective than medication alone. Combined with therapy, the person who is clinically depressed may need to make lifestyle changes, including dietary and exercise changes. The family needs to find ways to reduce stressors by simplifying their lives.
10.Get a written relapse prevention plan:
Make a list of early symptoms such as sleep, appetite and mood changes. Early intervention is the key to stopping a downward spiral. Determine what worked in the past to get the person with clinical depression back on track and do the things that worked before.