My sister’s been angry with me for some time. This became apparent seven years ago when my kids didn't attend her wedding.
They were both moving that weekend, but also hadn’t been close to her since she never called nor acknowledged their birthdays or events.
She also claimed that I never took care of our mother in her later years, which wasn’t true. I did try to reach out to her, without success.
My sister's husband died sixteen months ago. Today, her long-time friend called to say that she’s concerned about my sister because she’s been distancing everyone through angry emails.
She said that she thought my sister may be depressed. But I have no idea what to do because she won't talk to me.
We can't suggest counselling to her - she’ll neither accept the idea, nor can she afford it.
What should I do?
Still Her Brother
You care about her, so tell her so. It can be an important ice-breaker. Or, if she’s become too isolated and angry to believe it, you’ll know more about her negative outlook and/or depression, and what she won’t accept from you.
Still, tell her that you’ll be there for her if she needs help. That’s for her to decide. But add that, if she feels alone and isolated, you’ll help her find a professional counsellor she feels comfortable talking to.
If she lashes out against this suggestion, back off.
Meanwhile, act on your instinct and research the many ways to get mental-health help in your locale, often virtually.
The pandemic has decimated the confidence and heightened anxiety levels in so many people, that mental health has escalated to a huge area of need. Especially for people like your sister who already hold onto their past grievances.
Now, still early in the period of grief and loneliness after her husband’s death, her reasons for anger and self-pity have multiplied.
Call again after a while to ask how she’s doing. Email her and suggest talking online. She may use that opportunity to air more grievances, but don’t overreact.
Hopefully, when she’s heard some repeated caring about her, and you’ve let her vent, she may come to acknowledge that she needs professional help. If not, you’ve planted the idea for her to call you or seek help herself.
Dear Readers - These are stressful times for many - a fact that’s evidenced in my mailbox. The following is a different woman’s simple but sincere recognition of her need for mental health help.
I know that I'm suffering with depression. I read with interest that people are getting help with this problem. Is there somewhere I can begin?
Starting the Journey
You’ve already begun here. Just acknowledging your depression is wise and pro-active. I assure you that you’re not alone.
These anxious times have definitely contributed to the numbers of those suffering depression, with a notable rise of cases among youth.
But depression affects people of all ages. From the Canadian Mental Health Association: Depression is a medical illness that affects the brain and hormones. A sad mood is a symptom of this illness.
Depression isn’t a personal weakness. It’s not the person’s fault.
Fortunately, there are many ways to access help through an online search.
Example: In Ontario, BEACON (iCBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) used for mild to moderate mental health concerns, is digital therapy available without charge to support Ontarians through stress/ mental well-being concerns during COVID-19.
FEEDBACK Regarding the letter-writer who complained about wait-time in a doctor’s office despite having an appointment (December 15):
Reader – “I also used to become annoyed if not seen quickly.
“Then, I had a regularly-scheduled appointment with my family doctor two days after my Mom died.
“When I entered the family practice, I burst into tears at the wall of babies’ photos that the doctors had delivered. Everything was about mothers.
“I was gently directed to an empty office. When my doctor came in, she gave me a warm hug. She said she knew my mother’s health story and how it affected me but asked me to tell her about the kind of woman she was.
“We talked for seven minutes. I was very grateful for her kindness. I realized that she may listen to a distraught patient once or twice daily. Now if I have to wait a bit, I think it’s someone else’s turn.”
Tip of the day:
Depression is real. Offering assistance to get someone professional help is a true gift of caring.