Concerned about Mood Disorders? Here’s Help


As we head into winter and the days get shorter, it’s not unusual to feel a bit down. 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.

When a friend or family member is struggling, it can be hard to watch — let alone, 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 “Is the person noticeably sad, irritable or withdrawn?” Fontana says. “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

“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.

Grief Support Groups Available

Support groups can be extremely beneficial during challenging times. Renown is offering a free Grief Recovery Outreach Workshop for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. The group continues for 12 consecutive weeks and is facilitated by licensed social workers. The group provides participants the opportunity to learn how to navigate the grief process while gaining new perspectives from other people going through similar experiences. The group meets Thursdays from 5:30 -7 p.m. For information, please call 775-982-4125 or email

Renown Hospice Care also offers a free grief support group. The group meets the first and third Tuesday of every month from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Sparks Senior Center, and the first and third Wednesday of every month from 6:30 -8 p.m. at the Reno Senior Center. Call 775-982-2817 or email

If you need additional assistance, Renown Behavioral Health offers therapy and additional support groups. Learn more online.

Numerous local resources are also available for those in need of assistance. 

Local Resources 

Renown Behavioral Health: 775-982-5318 

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

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