Dear Viv: How can I support my depressed sister?

On this week’s podcast, Viv discusses how to help a sister who’s going through a difficult time.


This is going to be a bit messy as I’m not quite sure what the question is yet.

My younger sister is going through a difficult time. About three weeks ago she called me, told me she thinks she has depression, and has been ringing me regularly since then – struggling with life. I went to visit her once, and she has come to stay with me once.

She says her depression has been there for years but she’s only just faced up to it, and so it is hitting her hard.

She’s generally very private, closed off and hard to get close to – so I feel relieved she is reaching out to me in this time.

She told me by letter that she has episodes where she wanders out into the streets at night in hysteria, unable to sleep, wailing and sometimes without shoes etc. She sometimes has to drink herself to sleep. She has night terrors. She also told me last week she has been self-harming. I am very concerned about her wellbeing.

My further concern is her relationship. She is living with a boyfriend, paying his rent, as he is unemployed, having graduated five months ago. He says he is struggling to find work because he has severe OCD.

The financial pressure of him not being in work is adding to her current state of despair – that was the first reason she “opened up” to me – as she was in a panic about money and about his health, and him not being able to work.

She has seen a therapist three times. The therapist apparently has told her that our mum is a narcissist – that my sister was the scapegoat child, while me and my other sister were the golden children. The therapist has suggested my sister might benefit from cutting off all contact from our mum. This seems like dodgy advice to me, and too soon…

My question is, what can I do? Now, she is only reaching out to me, her boyfriend and her therapist. And I don’t fully trust those two. But can I intervene? And how? I want to support her through this difficult journey and time as best as I can, and I want to help her to grow to be strong and independent.


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