Concerned about Mood Disorders? Here’s How to Help


Many of us woke up to a yard full of glistening snow this week. But as we head into winter and the days get shorter, it’s not unusual to feel a bit down in the dumps. For some people though, feelings of sadness and withdrawal are less about seasonal doldrums and could instead indicate a more serious mood disorder. Learn about the signs to watch for and how you can help a loved one who may be in need.

sad woman sitting aloneWhen a friend or family member is struggling, it can be hard to watch – let alone, to feel comfortable enough to offer a helping hand. The good news is there are a number of local resources if you – or a loved one – are struggling with a behavioral health issue or possible depression.

What’s the Most Common?

Mood disorders like depression or anxiety and substance abuse and other addictive behaviors are the most common types of behavioral health issues. This is especially true as the days get shorter and the holidays bring more stress.

Possible Depression?

“For friends or family, simply noticing changes in their usual behavior, mood or habits is enough to investigate further,” says Renown Behavioral Health psychotherapist JoAnne Fontana, L.C.S.W.

Look for changes in the following:

  • Sleep patterns
  • Appetite
  • Energy
  • Communication
  • Motivation

And mood is obviously a key indicator. “Is the person noticeably sad, irritable or withdrawn?” JoAnne asks. “Does that person’s mood seem to change often and/or suddenly without obvious reason?”

When Professional Help is Needed

It can be hard to know whether these changes are severe enough to require professional help. “The most obvious and serious signs a person needs immediate professional help are plans to harm themselves or others,” adds Renown psychologist Barbara Prupas, Psy.D. There are also less obvious signs, including:

  • Prolonged sadness or crying
  • Withdrawal from people and normal activities
  • Excessive anger, aggression, fears, guilt or changes in energy level
  • Inability to cope with daily stressors
  • Numerous unexplained physical complaints
  • Increased drug, alcohol or medication use

How You Can Help

conversation with a therapist“When a loved one or friend is dealing with a potential behavioral health condition, the most effective way to approach them is with genuine concern,” says Renown marriage and family therapist Elizabeth Harrison, M.F.T.

She offers the following tips if you decide to reach out to a friend or loved one:

  1. Express your concern.
  2. Talk about the changes you’ve seen.
  3. Pause and listen. Don’t defend your observations or argue, just listen.
  4. Reflect on and restate the response. For example, “What I heard you say is you think I am overreacting and you can handle it.”
  5. Explain how you’d like to help. “I did some research and found some local resources. I’m happy to go with you or watch your children while you go to an appointment.”
  6. Thank them for listening to your concerns.
  7. Follow up. If no action was taken, do not be critical. Reiterate your concern and restate how you’d like to help.

The bottom line: Listen, engage and follow up with professionals if you have questions. Numerous local resources are available for those in need of assistance. 

Know Your Local Resources to Deal with Possible Depression

Renown Behavioral Health Clinics: 775-982-5318 or 775-982-2862

Crisis Call Center (24-hour hotline): 1-800-992-5757

National Alliance on Mental Illness: 775-322-1346

Chronic Pain Anonymous: 775-443-9577

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

Prescription medication addiction anonymous

Al-Anon (friends and family of someone with addiction)

Gamblers Anonymous: 775-356-8070

GROW (Grief Recovery Outreach Workshop): 775-813-2034

Vista Care Hospice: 775-324-7723

Solace Tree (kids and teens): 775-324-7723

Parenting Support Group: English – 775-348-6775, Spanish – 775-830-8128