For low vision specialists and those who consult them
Strategies for overcoming depression in visual impairment
April 21, 2010Posted by on
A reader of this blog recently wrote to me asking for advice for their son, who has recently been diagnosed with retinitis pignentosa and who was suffering from depression. Whilst this is primarily a research blog, and I have no research experience in this area, I thought I would share some of my clinical experience from working in low vision clinics for 12 years.
First, it is important to make sure that appropriate medical intervention for depression has taken place. It is important that the family doctor is aware of the problem, and that suitable counselling and/or medical treatment has been started. Depression is a common condition and whilst it is easy to assume that someone who is depressed and has recently lost vision is experiencing a reaction to their loss of sight this depression could well have other causes.
My second suggestion would be to make contact with a local or national charity for people with visual impairment. In my experience it can be particularly helpful for younger people, and those with newly diagnosed eye disease, to meet people with similar conditions who can act as role models. Meeting people with a similar condition who are in an interesting and rewarding job, or who are successful local business owners, or who are great parents, can be very therapeutic. It can also be extremely helpful to have a forum to discuss the practical and emotional aspects of visual impairment: to learn that you’re not the first person to make a certain embarrassing mistake, or to learn strategies to overcome a particular difficulty can be helpful. It’s also nice to have somewhere to moan and complain to people who really understand: the online forums on the (UK RNIB website are good for this.
Finally, ensure that hobbies can still be performed. It’s easy to concentrate on work and education activities when looking at low vision aids and assistive devices but if someone loves computer games, make sure they have a large TV for their games console. If they love football, look at local partially sighted teams.
It is often stated that people suffering from visual impairment go through a similar grieving process to those who are bereaved. Depression can be a consequence of this process and in my experience people can and do overcome this.