Q: Early last fall our son was discharged from the psychiatric unit of a larger hospital in the city. He was 32 at the time, old enough and mature enough to be on his own, but we were worried about his well-being and asked him to stay with us until he was more settled and on top of this depressive thing.
To some extent it is working. He sees his psychiatrist every three of four months to review his antidepressant medication and he goes regularly to see a counsellor at our mental health clinic and that seems to be helpful.
He looks forward to his counselling sessions. He is not as personally isolated as he was before he went into the hospital. But that is all that he is doing and that is what worries me.
I think that he should be doing more. I worry that he will gradually slip back into his bedroom and slide into the isolation that got him admitted to the hospital in the first place if he does not commit to something or the other.
The problem is that I do not know what I can do to encourage him without falling into constant nagging. That never works. So what can I do to help him get interested in life again and better still participating in the world around us?
A: Trying to help someone who is depressed is challenging at the best of times. Often as not, they slip away from you just when you think that you have found something that will get them off the couch and embracing life.
The problem is that you can never pick out what is of interest for another person. Finding interests is something each of us has to do for ourselves.
You might get lucky and pick something of interest that he was going to find for himself anyway, but that is all that is — just luck.
Otherwise, it is his job to do. All that you can really do is celebrate when he starts to edge toward something that he thinks is great, exciting or both.
In this much you are right. If your son does not renew his interest in life, he could easily start to defy both the medication and the counselling and end up back in his mental health facility.
What you can do is encourage your son to move around more with aerobic exercises. Studies carried out by psychologists are suggesting that those who do daily exercises (jogging, walking, biking, running, swimming, for example) are less likely to let either their depression or their sadness drive them into despair.
They are more likely to get committed to something and less likely to find refuge in shadows of their bedrooms.
Most of us know that depression can lead to personal lethargy. What the studies are saying is that combatting lethargy, through regular exercise, can influence and minimize depression. If you build a reward system within your home that reinforces your son’s commitment to daily exercises the odds are favourable that you will be doing your part to help him resolve his personal depression.
Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.