By Laura Dickman, BSW Intern
Watching your partner struggling with depression can make you feel helpless and frustrated. Depression can be very difficult to manage the symptoms as it affects things such as motivation, brain chemistry, and overall happiness. All of these factors end up resulting in a decrease in achievement of daily tasks and goals. This can become frustrating for partners of individuals struggling with depression as they may struggle to be active in household chores and being involved in the family system overall. However, there are several ways you and your partner can cope with the struggles that depression may bring.
Here are a few ways your family can support themselves during these challenging times:
Learn about depression. There are some great resources online, such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) that can help you understand what your partner might be experiencing. You might be surprised by some of the ways that depression can show up. For example, there is an ebb and flow to depression; some days your partner may feel more or less depressed than the day before.
Be there. You may feel like your partner may benefit more from talking to a professional therapist than yourself; however, the best thing you can do is show up for your partner. You listening and being present as a partner is more powerful than anyone else doing so. Invite your partner to be open and honest with you about what they experience.
You can respond with encouraging statements, such as:
“Tell me what I can do to help”
“You are important to me”
“I am here for you”
“We WILL get through this together”
Encourage your partner to consider receiving professional treatment by doing the following:
Share the symptoms you’ve noticed
Express your concern
Express your willingness to help
Discuss what you’ve learned about depression
Talk about treatment options
Create a Supportive Home Environment
It is important that your partner can understand their depression is not their fault, nor anyone’s fault. Although you cannot cure depression, your support will help your partner be able to work through this challenging time.
Changing lifestyle can make a large difference during the treatment process due to the low energy individuals can have because of mental illness. This causes difficulties for the individual when making healthy life choices. You can help by:
Encouraging healthy eating through getting your partner involved in planning and cooking healthy meals together regularly.
Exercise together daily to boost mood and cognitive performance.
Help your partner stick with treatment. You can do this by supporting your partner through driving with them to appointments, sitting in the waiting room with them, and checking in with your partner about how the appointments have been going.
Create a low stress environment through creating routines together that are specific, manageable, and relevant to your partner’s treatment goals.
Focus on Small Goals
Depression can become overwhelming for individuals struggling with mental illness, as it can affect the motivation individuals have for simple everyday tasks. Therefore, depression can make it seemingly impossible to achieve minor tasks that are required to maintain a good wellbeing. You can help your partner by setting and acknowledging small goals and daily achievements.
Know the Warning Signs of Suicide:
It’s important to understand the warning signs of suicide.
If you hear your partner talking about ending their life, or losing a will to live.
Getting a means to attempt suicide, such as purchasing a gun or stockpiling pills
If you notice extreme mood swings- very high one day and deeply discouraged the next.
If you are concerned about the safety of your partner, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-273-8255. Your call will be routed to the crisis center near you. If it is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
As well as learning about the importance of understanding depression and the signs and symptoms to respond better to your partner’s needs, there are several ways you can implement support for your partner and yourself. We know that it can be very challenging to be in a relationship with someone who is experiencing depression, and we want to encourage you to take care of yourself too! The old adage, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is very relevant here. One of the best things you can do to support your partner is to take care of yourself, too. If you are struggling with being the caregiver and need support, or would like to connect your partner to a therapist, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Article by: Katie Hurley. (2021, September 29). 6 ways to help your husband or wife deal with depression. Psycom.net - Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1996. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.psycom.net/help-partner-deal-with-depression/