The mental health disorders known as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affect approximately 1 in 10 people each year. Collectively, these conditions produce a multitude of symptoms such as feelings of hopelessness, sadness, guilt, pessimism, fatigue, loss of appetite, and even thoughts of suicide. So it stands to reason that this particular issue is extremely serious when considering most families who have experienced a congenital heart defect could possibly suffer from one of these mental health disorders. And it’s no wonder so many people who deal with a CHD (either their own or a family member’s) on a daily basis may end up suffering from these mental health conditions: they must deal with the emotional stress of the CHD diagnosis, the treatments, the medical procedures, surgeries, and the constant worry about the life-long health of themselves (or their family member).
That being said, it becomes urgently important to be watchful of the family members who deal with a CHD. Be on the lookout for signs that someone may be suffering from one of the above-mentioned mental health conditions. For example, if you notice someone is avoiding others, seems chronically sad or always tired, expresses feelings of extreme guilt, worry, or if they seem overwhelmed or have ever mentioned harming themselves, then you know it’s time to intervene.
When you do suspect someone is indeed suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD, here are some suggested things you can do:
- Do a little research (it never hurts to have plenty of information and resources if you plan on having any sort of intervention for someone who you feel is suffering)
- Sit down with the person and talk (ask them how they feel, what they’re thinking, let them know you and others are worried about them, share the researched information you found)
- Most importantly, encourage the person to seek help from a mental health professional (you can even offer to accompany them)
- Let them know you are there for them (encourage daily phone calls or visits, offer to help them with daily chores, etc.)
Some resources that may be of help: