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You Asked: My Mother Is Severely Depressed


Dear Sugar,

I am at a loss with how to deal with my depressed mother. She has been plagued with depression her entire life but she only started medication eight years ago. She decided at some point last Summer that she didn't want or need the medication anymore because it made her feel so numb, so she weaned herself off without telling a single soul. Since she finally spilled the beans, I have encouraged her to go back on some sort of medication, but she's not budging.

Now my mom is an unmedicated mess. She has her doctor believing that she's able to manage this on her own and she can't. My concern with the doctor is that she has only been to see him a couple of times. How can he really know what's wrong with her? I have tried to broach this subject on more than a handful of occasions but she doesn't want to hear that she needs to be back on medication. Can I call her doctor? I know he can't share anything with me, but can I share information with him? What should I do?

— Scared For Mom Madison

To see DearSugar's answer, read more.

Dear Scared For Mom Madison,

While your mother's desire to be off the medication is understandable, I agree with you that it's not the best idea right now if it's that clear that she can't handle this on her own. I'm actually more concerned that as someone diagnosed with clinical depression, she's not seeing her doctor more frequently. Although, I think your instinct to get more involved in your mother's medical care is correct, contacting her doctor should be a last resort as it sets up trust issues between you and your mother, and right now she needs to be able to confide in you.

First off, talk to your mom about seeing a new psychiatrist, but iterate to her that you want to find one who focuses on managing depression without medication. Once she's speaking with someone regularly, it's possible that she will learn how to manage her moods, but if not, a more present doctor is likely to see your mother's limitations and address them properly. If your mom's condition suddenly worsens or if she begins lying to her doctor again, then I think making the phone call would be appropriate. As you said, the doctor won't be able to reveal anything to you, but you can definitely explain what's going on to him. In the meantime, check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance for a resource on depression and to research doctors and alternative treatment methods. I wish you and your family luck.

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