Question: What signs or symptoms should prompt family members to seek professional or emergency help for their depressed loved one?
Answer: Well again, if someone exhibits the signs of and symptoms of major depression, such as a low mood or a loss of interest in their activities, a change in sleep or appetite, low energy, those kinds of symptoms, they should seek help.
But you should also inquire whether your friend or family member has any suicidal thoughts, thoughts of wanting to die. And there's different levels of suicidal thoughts.
One thing we call "passive suicidal ideation" is someone who feels like they want to die, but they would never do anything about it. But they feel miserable and if they're hit by a bus tomorrow, they wouldn't care. That we call passive suicidal thoughts or ideation.
The next level would be someone who has more active thoughts where thoughts come into their head, plans on how to hurt themselves even though they may not have any intent on doing that. Thoughts enter their mind like, I guess I could overdose or jump from a tall building, various things like that.
The next level of suicidal ideation would be actual intent to carry out plans. And any level of these, whether it's passive or actually intent to harm yourself deserves professional help.
Obviously, if someone has an intent to harm themselves and a plan in mind, they need help right away and you should get them to an emergency room if need be. You might want to call their primary care doctor first, or if they're in psychiatric treatment call their psychiatrist or therapist first.
And if it's a real emergency and you're afraid someone is going to be hurting themselves within minutes or hours, you want to call the police and get them to the house immediately. The police have the right to take someone to the emergency room for evaluation, even if it's against their will, if they think they're in imminent harm.
Obviously, we don't want to violate someone's civil rights, human rights, but when people are suicidal from depression it's really part of an illness that gets better. And studies have shown that depression gets better, almost everyone that had suicidal ideation before is thankful they didn't do anything to harm themselves.
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