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Like a pebble thrown into a pond, depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder create ripples that spread far from their immediate point of impact. Those closest to people who have these illnesses often suffer alongside them. It's upsetting and often frustrating to deal with the inevitable fallout. But you can do a lot to help a loved one and yourself handle this difficult period.

Encourage him or her to get treatment and stick with it. Remind the person about taking medication or keeping therapy appointments. Don't ignore comments about suicide. If you believe your loved one is suicidal, call his or her doctor or therapist. If neither is available, call a local crisis center or emergency room.

Care for yourself. Being a caretaker is a difficult job. You may want to seek individual therapy or join a support group. Numerous mental health organizations sponsor such groups and can also provide you with information on the illness and the latest treatments.

Offer emotional support. Your patience and love can make a huge difference. Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Try not to brush off or judge the other person's feelings, but do offer hope. Suggest activities that you can do together, and keep in mind that it takes time to get better. Remind yourself that a disease is causing your loved one to act differently or perhaps be difficult. Do not blame him or her, just like you wouldn't if it were chronic physical pain that caused the person to change in certain ways.

Try to prevent reckless acts during manic episodes. It's all too common for a person to make poor decisions when manic, so it's a good idea to try to prevent this problem by limiting access to cars, credit cards, and bank accounts. Watch for signs that a manic episode is emerging. Disruption of sleep patterns can trigger an episode, so support your loved one in keeping a regular sleep schedule. Consistent patterns for other activities such as eating, exercising, and socializing may also help.

Last Annual Review Date: 2011-02-28T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: Copyright Harvard Health Publications

Reference: Depression section on Better Medicine

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