Depressed Sister

Claudia Confidentially
Sister in Depression Needs Support
by Claudia Luiz

Dear Claudia Confidentially,

My sister was just diagnosed with depression, and will probably go on medication. She had two kids and can’t get out of bed, sometimes. I am relieved but also kind of sad. Will she always have to be on medication? She doesn’t want therapy. I really want to help her – how can I help her listen?

Angela in Canton

Dear Angela,

Rent “Ordinary People” to see a beautiful, uplifting film about a young man suffering from melancholic depression who was helped to “let it all out”. Depression is like trapped, poisonous steam in a steam kettle. With no place to go, the steam poisons the mind from the inside. Feelings of worthlessness, failure and hopelessness set in. Psychotherapy can help people either learn how to let off steam, or decrease the steam at the source of heat.

Your sister doesn’t want therapy right now though, so I wouldn’t push it. She is trying to decrease her tensions right now – therapy may feel too stimulating. “Pep talks” probably annoy her, too. She’s not ready to move into another psychological space.

The best thing you can do for your sister, if you can, is just sit with her. She could use some company. She is just going to be really, really sad for now. Entering her sad space and spending time with her there will make a difference, even if she doesn’t show it. If your sister feels relaxed around you and relieved to be with you, you will be in a much stronger position, eventually, to influence her to enter psychotherapy. Especially if she is feeling better on medication, she may actually follow you as you try to shine a light into dark places she is afraid to go into right now. You sound like a caring sister who is having to come to terms with some painful realities…my thoughts are with you.

Claudia Luiz, M.Ed., Cert. Psya. is in private practice in Westwood. Questions to “Claudia Confidentially”, can be e-mailed to: news@ or mailed to “Claudia Confidentially” c/o Hometown Weekly, 30 Park Street, Medfield, MA 02052.

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