Helping Partners with Depression

Updated: Apr 2


Hi lovely people, let me first wish you all a happy new year, hope you are all safe and well.

In the past 11 months we have had three lockdowns, taking us away from our normal routines and our loved ones. It’s been hard for all of us and very overwhelming to think myself and many others have had to see our parents in carparks or parks. The stress of not being able to get a hug or simply to touch. The pressure of not knowing what the future holds for jobs and finances can have an effect on our mental health, leading to depression. And as a partner this can be very hard to deal with.

Watching from the side lines when a partner is battling depression can feel like a helpless experience. You yourself can feel very overwhelmed by it all, frustrated and confused. You may feel that every attempt to help your partner is either rejected or ignored and at some point, feel you are to blame for their depression. I want you to know, you are not alone.

In major depression the moods can often be described as hopeless, sad, discouraged or feeling low, but can also include angry outburst, persistent anger and blaming others is extremely common. Withdrawing from social settings or a lack of interest or pleasure are common among depressed people. All of these factors can make it difficult to know how to help, but remember your support is so important. You won't be able to cure your partner, but you can help your partner along the road to recovery.


Learn about depression

People with depression can have really good days, even a few in a row, only to have some really bad days that can last up to two weeks. Depression can be like a seesaw, that isn’t always understood by loved ones. Depression can include the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness or hopelessness

  • Change in appetite (including weight gain or loss)

  • Sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or little)

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities

  • Fatigue (even small task can take longer)

  • Anxiety or agitation

  • Angry outburst

  • Feeling worthless or guilty (including going over the past)

  • Trouble thinking, concentrating or making decisions

  • Frequently thinking of death, including suicidal thoughts

  • Unexplained physical symptoms

Your first important step is to help your partner understand the disease. But that means educating yourself by reading and consulting professionals for more information. But the best way to understand is by asking your partner open-ended questions on how your partner experiences depression and using empathic listening.

Be there

You might feel that the best way to help is to run around finding the best treatment, or support groups or talking to others about their depression. But often the best thing that you can do is just be there. You won't have all the answers, that’s ok. You can sit and listen, hold their hand, offer hugs and be present. You can respond with encouraging statements:

  • “tell me what I can do to help”

  • “you are important to me”

  • “I’m here for you”

  • “we will get through this together”

Encourage treatment People all too often, feel that they just need to will themselves better, but depression seldom improves without treatment. You can help your partner by encouraging treatment and being there during the appointments. Help your partner consider treatment by doing the following:

  • Share the symptom's you have noticed

  • Express your concerns

  • Express your willingness to help, by making and preparing appointments

  • Discuss what you have learned about depression

  • Talk about treatment options, that can be psychotherapy, medication or lifestyle changes

Create a supportive home environment

Changes in lifestyle can make a big difference during the treatment process. Because depression can eat at a person’s energy and affect both sleep and appetite, it can be difficult for depressed people to make health choices. You can help:

  • Focus on healthy eating. Get your partner involved in planning and cooking meals

  • Exercise together. Daily exercise can help boost your mood

  • Help your partner stick to the treatment

  • Consider creating a daily routine to handle meals, medication and chores

  • Make a weekly date to rent a movie, go hiking or play a board game

  • Be sure to point out their strengths and the areas they have improved

See the warning signs of suicide The risk of suicide is always higher during major depressive disorder. Be aware of the red flags and get immediate help:

  • Talking about suicide

  • Stockpiling pills or purchasing a gun

  • Extreme mood swings – very high one day and deeply discouraged the next

  • Social withdrawal

  • Preoccupied with thoughts of death

  • Feeling overwhelmed with hopelessness

  • Self-destructive behaviour, including drugs or alcohol abuse or reckless driving

  • Giving away belongings

  • Saying goodbye

  • Getting affairs in order

  • Developing personality changes

Supporting a partner with depression is emotionally taxing for a partner. It's important to practice self-care and increase your own support network during this time. Hoping this will be helpful to those going through it or partners who haven’t yet recognised their partner may need help. Good luck to you all Zena Finn

Zencentre

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