Does your partner wrestle with depression? Do your actions have very little effect against the heaviness that drains the joy and color out of your connection?
Are you asking, “Is there anything I can do or say to make a positive change? Are there things I should not do or say?”
Supporting a partner with depression may feel very lonely at times. However, you are not not alone in this difficult experience.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 21 million adults in America experienced depression in 2020. That is 8.4% of the adult population. According to a survey conducted by the US Census Bureau, about half of the residents in Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue felt depressed in November of 2020. That makes us the most depressed city in America.
Symptoms of depression is a common experience, especially during the pandemic. Supporting a loved one through depression is also incredibly common. There are concrete ways you can support your depressed partner.
Start by preparing yourself with daily a routine of self-care, self-compassion, and self-validation. Your desire to support and shoulder some of the burden is admirable and you own mental health is invaluable. Caring for your partner does not have to come at the expense of your wellbeing.
To be the best support possible requires clear boundaries. From there, you can offer your partner nonjudgmental care and a trustworthy alliance. What does that look like practically? Following are some helpful strategies.
What You Can Do to Help Your Depressed Partner
1. Learn More About Depression
Now is the time to learn the signs, symptoms, and types of depression. You can inform yourself of your partner’s condition and how their daily life is interrupted. Even if you have experienced depression yourself in the past, depression does not manifest the same way for everyone.
While there are many websites, blogs, and books on the topic, reaching out to a professional counselor to learn more about depression and get support for yourself as a caregiver is vital. A knowledgeable information source can make all the difference in getting the right support at the right time.
Furthermore, learning more about your partner’s low moods and emotional pain can help boost your own empathy, engagement, and patience. As you come to understand how depression ebbs and flows, affects energy, and impacts self-worth, you can operate with more clarity and curiosity regarding your partner’s experience.
2. Remain Vulnerable, Accessible, & Present
As a partner, your acceptance, kind words, and compassionate presence have power during this vulnerable time for your loved one. Depression can cause your partner to withdraw, but try not to respond in kind. You can be the best support by continuing to reach out and connect with them as much as you can.
The sense of belonging and emotional safety you offer is sacred. You can stay open, suspend judgement, and encourage your partner to come to you and open up when they are able. Listen well and practice being nonjudgemental.
One of the symptoms of depression is fatigue and the journey to heal from depression can be exhausting for your partner. You can help by staying focused on the present, acknowledging small victories, and praising any attempt to reach their goals.
Depression is not a character defect. You can be supportive of your partner’s journey by providing positive reinforcement rather than blaming or shaming.
3. Encourage Depression Treatment
There are a number of effective treatments for depression such as counseling, acupuncture, exercise, medication, meditation, body and energy work, light therapy, nutrition, etc. However, getting over the hurdle of shame and stigma around mental health concerns and seeking help can be difficult. Your partner may feel ashamed of their inability to power through their depression. There may be cultural and gender-based stigma and taboo around mental health concerns. Your partner may have grown up in a family culture where mental health was swept under the rug and there was a code of silence in the home. Your partner may not have had access to mental health care in the past due to their socioeconomic situation.
You can gently help your partner see the wisdom of professional guidance. Share what you have learned about depression, your observations of their struggles, and symptoms that concern you. Let your partner know that there is hope and they are not alone. Depression treatment is accessible and effective. They do not have to continue to feel this way.
If they are not sure what to look for in a therapist, you can share our blog post with tips on how to find a therapist that is right for them.
You can remain steadfastly committed to encouraging therapy, medication, or both and commit to seeking out treatment with them. If your partner struggles to continue treatment, you can offer to take them to the appointments or even attend therapy with them as a support.
Psychotherapy can be hard work and may be difficult or draining at times. You can be supportive of your partner by listening to their therapy experiences or to simply be present as they navigate the process and their emotions.
4. Keep Personal Responsibility and Boundaries Clear
It is easy to slip into a more parental place, or that of a roommate, with a depressed partner. Intentionally set your personal limits and honor your partner’s strengths and resilience. Continue to treat them with respect and trust in their capability to overcome their depression. You can communicate honestly your expectation that they are a full participant in your relationship. Do not be afraid to kindly and firmly let your partner know that their self-care and obligations are their responsibility. Their recovery also impacts you. The better they feel, the more they can contribute to the shared success of your relationship.
5. Take Suicide Seriously
Finally, take any mention of suicide seriously, and report them to your loved one’s physician or therapist. If they’re in imminent danger, call 911 for emergency services or get them to the nearest emergency room.
Take the Next Step for More Help
Depression rarely dissipates on its own. Supporting a partner with a mental health condition can be challenging. You both need and deserve care and support. Let us help. You can read more about depression treatment with one of our licensed therapists and schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if we can be a good fit to help you.