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When depression impacts family life

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When someone in the family is suffering from depression, it goes without saying that it’s not only their daily functioning that is affected – it can also have a wider impact on the family as a whole.1–3 In this article, we look at some of the ways families can be affected by a relative’s depression, and how they can cope.

Financial strain

Several factors related to a loved one’s depression can lead to a tightening of finances. Limited functioning, particularly when caused by the cognitive symptoms of depression such as troubles with concentration and memory, may mean that the person is unable to work. A family member may even have taken time off from work to care for the loved one with depression. The ‘Caring for Carers Survey’ revealed that caregivers can spend an average of 22 hours per week caring for someone with a mental health illness.4* The costs of medical care and treatment can also result in additional financial pressure on the family.1,3,5 This is obviously tough and may be unavoidable. If a loved one has to be signed off work for a long period because their depression is negatively impacting their daily functioning, it’s worth looking into whether any social security may be available to help support them.

Role reversals

Your loved one’s depression can result in a lack of energy or motivation to carry out their day-to-day tasks. To compensate for these deteriorations in their functioning, these tasks may end up being taken on by other members of the family.1,5,6 In some instances, children may also take up activities to help care for a parent with depression.6 This is the case for carers of people with many types of illness, and can be difficult. Try to keep in mind that this is temporary and remember to also take care of your own health as well.

Unsettled routines

Family members may find themselves adapting their lifestyles and withdrawing from their own social lives and activities in an effort to support their loved one as much as possible.1,6 Although easier said than done, it’s important to stay engaged with these aspects of your life, for the sake of your own mental health. Trying to maintain a routine, as much as possible, may help to bring a sense of normality and security to both the person who is ill and the rest of the family.5

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In addition to being there for them, encouraging their loved one to seek additional help and advice from their doctor, as well as attending family support groups together, can be greatly beneficial for both the person with depression and their family.2,5

*15% of carers surveyed cared for someone with depression.

For more advice on how to care for your loved one, as well as yourself, the European Federation of Associations of Families of People with Mental Illness (EUFAMI) published the “Caring for someone with depression: caring for two?” brochure.

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  1. Priory Group. Does mental health affect and impinge on family relationships. Available at: Accessed March 2018.

  2. Psychology Today. Depression’s painful effects on friends and family. Available at: Accessed March 2018.

  3. Beyondblue. Living with depression – carer’s experience. Available at: Accessed March 2018

  4. Caring for Carers Survey (C4C). Available at: Accessed March 2018.

  5. Antidepressant Skills at Work. The impact of depression on families. Available at: Accessed March 2018.

  6. PsyWeb. How does depression affect a family?. Available at: Accessed March 2018.

What is the biggest impact of your loved one’s depression on your family life?
At work, is depression affecting your ability to:

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