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Depression: Family and Caregiver Guide

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Life has its ups and downs. We all go through times when we may feel overwhelmed or stressed. These feelings may arise from multiple deployments, relocations or because of life’s every day demands. Clinical depression however, can potentially lead to more serious issues such as death or suicide; therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms of depression and get the support and resources you need to get help for you or your Soldier.

Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent sadness or anxiety – may include feelings of irritability, panic or restlessness and episodes of crying or tearfulness.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism or helplessness – may include feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt.
  • Not wanting to leave the house – may include withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life – may include a loss of interest in sex or other activities that were once pleasurable.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns – may include difficulty falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much. It can also cause sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Decreased energy – may include a lack of motivation.
  • Difficulty concentrating – may include memory loss and difficulty making decisions.
  • Persistent physical symptoms – may include headaches, digestive disorders or back pain.
  • Alcohol or substance abuse – may include a significant increase in the amount of alcohol you consume on a regular basis.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide – contact a health care professional immediately if there are thoughts or talk of suicide. You can also contact the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

Family members or Caregivers who notice changes in their Soldier that may indicate he/she may be suffering from depression should contact the Soldier’s WTB clinical staff such as the primary care manager, nurse case manager, and social worker or Chaplain. WTC Cadre can assist Family members or Caregivers in providing a healing experience for the Soldier.

The Importance of Self Care

As a Caretaker, many times one overlooks their own needs. It’s important that you take care of yourself. One way is to keep an inventory of your own depressive symptoms and share them with your health care provider. The list below contains a few helpful health tips in maintaining your mental health.

  • Manage your diet
  • Get adequate rest
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Participate in regular exercise
  • Surround yourself with people who are important to you
  • Communicate your feelings to someone you trust
  • Join a social support group in your military community or in your local area

Additional Resources

For additional information on depression, please refer to:

  • The Defense Centers of Excellence: Provides 24/7 help for psychological health issues.
  • Military One Source: Provides non-medical counseling services online, via telephone, or in-person, as well as access to other mental health resources.
  • Military Pathways: Provides free, anonymous mental health and alcohol self-assessments for family members and service personnel in all branches including the National Guard and Reserve, as well as referral information provided through the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

Frequently Asked Questions

Is depression common?

Yes, depressive disorders are common. They affect an estimated 9.5 percent of adult Americans in a given year, or about 20.9 million people.

Is depression treatable?

Yes, the majority of people who are treated for depression will improve, even those with serious depression. Unfortunately, one-third of sufferers do not seek help, as they do not realize depression is a treatable illness.

Are there any tips that can help me deal with mild depressive feelings?

  • Manage your diet
  • Get adequate rest
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Participate in regular exercise
  • Surround yourself with people who are important to you
  • Communicate your feelings to someone you trust
  • Join a social support group in your military community or in your local area

Is it normal to feel depressed around the holidays?

Feeling down during or after the holiday season is not uncommon. Preparing for the holidays, the increased expectations of family and friends, the sadness of not having a loved one present, or having to say good-bye after a holiday reunion can contribute to a person feeling down. However, if these symptoms persist or if you suspect it might be more serious, contact someone for help.

Related Topics

Mental Health

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