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How Do I Help My Depressed, Unemployed Mother

Question:

My mother has been really depressed for several years now. It has so fully engulfed her that she hasn’t worked in the past 2 years. She sleeps a lot. She’s angry all the time and takes it out on my grandmother (whom she lives with). I want her to understand that it’s important to seek out some help in order to get things back on track, but she thinks it’s just a case of the blues that she is going to snap out of. Recently she told me that she was going to kill herself–later she played it off like she was “kidding.” I think that this is serious, and not something that she’s going to “snap out of it.” She is unemployed and I am a student, so we don’t have the money to hire a therapist. I don’t even know how to get her to speak with anyone. What should I do to help her?

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Answer:

You can help her by telling her that you love her, and that you believe she is suffering from something that is more than just the blues, which is impacting her life and for which she may need treatment. You can also help her by arranging for her evaluation by a medical doctor (preferably a psychiatrist). This would be the first step towards getting her depression (if that is what it is) adequately treated. Whether she will cooperate with you or not I can’t say. Good luck motivating her to take your advice in this instance.

Health care costs money, and I appreciate that you dont’ have much of that. You and so many other people. Under the circumstances, there are a few avenues for lower-cost care that you can explore:

Most citys and towns of any size in the United States have a community mental health care center which exists to provide mental health care to the needyist patients in each region. These centers have psychiatrists and counselors on staff in most cases. They run under notoriously slim budgets, however, and it is not clear that your mother will qualify as disabled or incapacitated enough to receive care. I would start by finding the nearest such center to your house and then trying to make an appointment for her to be evaluated, however. She might very well find a place there, or at least they will be knowledgeable of alternative resources she can approach in the area. Use SAMHSA’s searchable database of clinics to help you find the one near you.

So far as medications go (once they have been prescribed), there are several programs around that help people to get medications for discounted prices. Not all medicines are available for lower cost, but some are. These programs are worth looking into after you have a diagnosis and a prescription. A few of them are reviewed here.

Most professions that offer psychotherapy have a tradition of encouraging their practitioners to offer some percentage of their work in a pro-bono (freely donated) or sliding scale format, so that lower income people may have access to their services. Don’t count on this, but it does occur. Sliding scale therapy is sometimes available through university clinical psychology training programs, where student therapists practice on you. It’s not as bad as it sounds, becuase most of the therapists will be reasonable, and there is a licensed experienced supervisor watching over things to make sure they go well.

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