Supporting a depressed partner can take a significant toll on relationships and cause  loved ones to feel helpless, confused, frustrated, or fearful. Depression is a serious  mental health condition affecting millions of people worldwide each year and is  characterised by persistent sadness and a lack of interest in previously enjoyable  activities, amongst other symptoms. The good news is that depression can be treated,  with loved ones playing a crucial role in recovery.   

Below are some helpful tips on how to support your partner as they journey towards  their recovery: 

1. Educate yourself about depression 

Take the time to educate yourself about  depression by doing your own research or perhaps contacting organisations that may  provide such information. By gaining a better insight into what is going on with your  partner, you are in a better position to support them. It is also equally important to  understand that your partner might require a level of care that you may not be able to  provide. Therefore, it is important to know your limits and encourage them to seek out  professional support. 

2. Validate their feelings

 It may feel tempting to tell your partner to cheer up or  remind them of all the good things they have in their life. Although this may be done  with the best of intentions, it is important to remember that depression is not something  the person can easily recover from. Such comments are, therefore, likely to make your  partner feel more guilty and invalidated. Instead, try to acknowledge and be present  with their feelings by saying things such as, “I can’t imagine how difficult it must feel for  you” or gently ask them how they would like to be helped. It is okay to not have any  solutions.

3. Celebrate every “little” win

 For someone going through depression, doing  everyday tasks can feel overwhelming. Therefore, if your partner manages to do things  like cooking dinner, or doing the dishes, let them know they did a great job without  sounding patronising. You may also want to offer to help with certain tasks which they  might feel more able to do with your support. 

4. Keep doing the things you both enjoy 

It is important to remember and remind  your partner that their depression does not define them and that they have other roles  and interests. Staying active and engaging in physical exercise is a significant aspect of  recovery as they promote the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. You may want  to suggest fun outdoor activities, such as going for a walk, a swim, a bike ride, or a picnic  in nature. Encourage them without pushing too much if they decline to join, else  consider adjusting your ideas to fit with what they need on that day. 

5. Intimacy issues 

Depression can cause people to become emotionally and  physically withdrawn. They may experience a lower sex drive which may be a symptom  of depression and sometimes the result of antidepressant medication. Remember that  this is not something personal but a reflection of their emotional struggles. You may try  to encourage intimacy and stay physically connected with gestures of love and affection  such as holding hands on walks, cuddling, or sending loving text messages. 

6. Remember to take care of yourself 

Supporting a depressed partner is often tiring,  so do not forget to look after yourself and ask for support when needed. Ultimately, you  are unlikely to feel able to support them if you are not feeling okay yourself. Self-care  activities may include: staying connected to family and friends, adhering to good  nutrition and sleep hygiene, regular physical exercise, journaling or talking about your  feelings with a trusted family member, friend, or therapist.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Dr. Ronald Zammit holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Southampton, has completed Master’s level psychotherapy training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at the New Buckinghamshire University in the UK, as well as received training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). He has a special interest in mood and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related difficulties, personality disorders, and compassion-based approaches to treating difficulties related to high self-criticism and shame.