What can we do if a family member is depressed and refuses to seek treatment?
This can be a very complicated situation for the family members of a person who appears to be suffering from depression. Because of the stigma of mental illness, many depressed persons never seek treatment. This may be more likely based on age (older), gender (male), or ethnic and cultural identity (mental illness has a greater stigma in many cultures). An individual with close ties might want to encourage the affected person to seek treatment in any way possible. Perhaps the person will not see a psychiatrist but will agree to meet with a social worker. Suggest a consultation first, after which treatment can be considered. Maybe the person would be willing to speak with a clergy person at his or her place of worship. One could accompany the person to his or her next family doctor or internist appointment, where he or she might be willing to have you communicate concerns to the doctor.
Making an initial appointment with a mental health practitioner on behalf of the affected individual may be enough to motivate him or her to seek help, especially if you agree to attend the appointment as well. If, however, a person absolutely refuses to meet with anyone, a decision needs to be made as to potential for dangerousness to self or others. For example, if suicidal ideation is suspected, local emergency personnel can be called to take the person to the emergency room. He or she may be angry with this, but if suicide is a possibility, the risk is worth taking. Some communities have mobile crisis units available in which a team of mental health practitioners comes to the home to evaluate the person in crisis. Information about home-based mental health services for persons in crisis can usually be obtained from the community or city hospitals that sponsor such programs.