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by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist

Diagnosis of a neurological disease often brings a heavy emotional burden that includes fear and depression. Setting up a support system is an essential part of managing these and other serious health conditions.

Whether suffering from years of depression or recently diagnosed with a life-changing medical condition, today there are many places an individual can hopefully find needed support.

While we’ll never know the extent of the relationship between Robin Williams’ diagnosis of Parkinson’s and his suicide, there is a link between some neurological conditions and suicidal ideation and behavior. Of the more than 600 neurological diseases in existence, major types include Huntington’s, muscular dystrophy, spinal bifida, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Having a support system in place — ideally, one that includes family and friends, health care providers, and other patients with similar experiences — can be the difference between simply living with a health condition and successfully managing it while maintaining or improving quality of life. Support systems can be found in many places, and technology now allows those who cannot or do not wish to physically attend support groups to find help and camaraderie online.

While those diagnosed with a health condition often don’t want to worry loved ones, it’s beneficial to be surrounded by family and friends who know what a person is going through and who can provide physical and emotional support. Those comfortable with sharing may look for additional support on social networks.

Hospitals and clinics can put patients in touch with support groups based on an individual’s needs. Patients can start by asking their health care or insurance providers or visiting their web sites.

Today, there are support forums and online groups on nearly any topic. An online search is a great place to start. Because online forums typically can be viewed by the public, users should avoid posting personally identifying information and check settings to ensure details like names and e-mail addresses aren’t available to other viewers.

It’s essential that people suffering from depression seek professional help as soon as possible. Those in immediate danger should call 911. Those not in immediate danger, but who need to talk with someone about suicidal feelings should call one of two national suicide prevention lines: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Visit for more information.

(This article by Dianna Malkowski  originally appeared on the CareGiver Partnership blog. Malkowski is a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist specializing in diabetes, cancer, wound healing, therapeutic diets and nutrition support. )


About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.

Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.