If you’ve clicked on this because you want to know how to help a partner with depression, first of all, thank you. While it is not your sole responsibility to fix someone, support from a loved one can make the world of difference to someone managing depression.
Struggling with depression, is hard. It is soul draining, energy sucking and just plain sucks. Unfortunately, this can also put pressure on the people who are in a supportive role.
Helping someone through their depression battle can feel like a minefield and there may be things that don’t make sense if you’ve never battled with it. Read on to find 8 tips on how to help a partner with depression:
I am not a professional, and I write only from my own experiences. If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, please check out these Crisis Resources.
1. Offer support
Be there for them. This sounds really obvious but it is the most important point. Make sure they know you’re there for them to talk to!
Depression can scramble your thoughts, and make your mind feel like a tornado of toxicity. Make time for them to talk, and let some of that out.
Remember that it is not your job to police or fix their thoughts, and try and avoid toxic positivity. While trying to keep your partner positive is a noble cause, it can be incredibly invalidating.
Just hear them. Let them vent their thoughts without fear, and without reservation. When you struggle with depression, it can create a feeling of shame that makes it hard to talk about inner struggles.
By simply listening and being there, you are validating your partners feelings, and letting them know they are safe with you.
2. Give them space
What? You just told me to be there! I know this might sound completely contradictory to what I just said, but the two points are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
While total isolation is obviously not healthy, sometimes struggling with depression means you need some space. This isn’t a reflection on you, it’s usually a reflection of feeling overwhelmed.
If your partner doesn’t feel like talking or wants some space, let them be. Check in on them, but don’t force it.
3. Don’t get frustrated
I have depression. I get it, I know it’s frustrating and I know it can be hard to keep your patience when you see things completely differently.
Depression comes with a load of shame and guilt. It muddles your brain and warps your perspective. Your partner will think and feel things that may not make sense to you. They will view themselves in a light that you don’t.
As frustrating as that may feel when they can’t see things that seem obvious to you, please don’t take your frustration out on them. They need your empathy.
4. Include them
Depression may make your partner feel fatigued and lethargic. Everyday things that seem simple to you, may feel monumental to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to do things, they may just struggle to muster the energy to do them.
Include them in what you’re doing! Even if you don’t think they’ll want to, offer. Being part of something you’re doing can help them engage with life and get them out of their own head.
Try and give positive reinforcement when they do something with you. Depression can make you feel useless, and giving them positive feedback can really help tackle that. Even something as simple as ‘good job’ can go a long way.
5. Ask your partner what they need
Ask your partner what they need from you to feel supported and loved.
Although you may think what they need seems obvious, it’s not always that simple.
Mental health can affect relationships, and this can make it hard to ask for what they need unprompted. Depression can make you feel like asking for what you need makes you ‘needy’, and sometimes they need you to ask.
It will also make them feel valued, knowing that you want to help them.
6. Know the signs
This point is a little more serious than others, but incredibly important.
Educate yourself about depression, and the signs of suicidal thoughts. These signs can be subtle, so it’s important to keep an eye out for them.
While being positive is important, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that if they seem better, they are better. Even in my worst depression slumps I have had high energy days where I could muster a smile which would lead to a collective sigh of relief that I was fine.
A smile doesn’t mean they are fine. Assuming that can be incredibly isolating and invalidating. Celebrate the good days, but don’t assume that means that there will be no more bad days.
7. Encourage professional help
When I first learned I had depression, I despised the idea of seeking professional help, even though I needed it.
I later learned this was a form of self destructive behaviour, but that came years later. Your partner will likely resist professional help, because depression has a way of making you feel weak or incapable.
You can’t force them into professional help, but you can support them and encourage it, while reminding them that it won’t make you see them as weak. Make sure you let them know they will still be loved, and that you will be with them every step of the way.
8. Look after yourself!
Loving someone who struggles with depression can be hard!
Remember that while you should support your partner, you must learn how to have empathy without compromising yourself. A relationship should always be a two way street, and you are allowed to ask for love and support too.
Tell your partner what you need. Engage in self care. You must make sure you are taking care of yourself to be able to effectively support someone with depression. Always remember that it is not solely your job to manage their mental health for them.
A final note
Supporting someone with depression is hard, and the fact you read an article about how to help a partner with depression means you take that seriously. Thank you for being in someone’s corner, for helping them fight a monster they cannot see.
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