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7 ways to support and help your partner through depression

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It might feel hopeless to watch your partner struggle with depression. You could experience confusion, annoyance, and overwhelm. You might believe that no matter what “help” you try to offer your partner, it is either ignored or dismissed. Even worse, you might start to feel somewhat accountable for your partner’s depression. An isolating condition like depression can harm relationships and make family members feel powerless and fearful. It might be challenging to know how to support a depressed partner. Your assistance, however, is crucial. Although you can’t treat your partner’s depression, you may support them as they work toward recovery. (Also read: 8 positive things to tell a person struggling with depression )

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Kirti Verma, Chief Psychologist and Relationship Expert at Kripa Social Welfare Society, suggested important ways to support and help your partner through depression.

1. Educate yourself first

There is nothing more damaging than hearing “well, just don’t be sad” or “I don’t get how you can be so unhappy”. Educating yourself about the causes, symptoms and signs of depression is an easy way to support your partner and avoid saying something hurtful.

2. Ask your partner how they want to be supported

Instead of guessing how to help, ask if there is a way you can support them. They might not know, and that is okay. But if they do, try following their suggestion and see what happens.

3. Listen

Don’t try to solve the depression. Just listen. Use listening skills like reflecting back on what they are saying and feeling, or validation. Stay away from advice or problem-solving (unless they ask).

4. Build a culture of appreciation

Depression makes people believe they are worthless and useless and leaves them feeling guilty. Express genuine appreciation for something about them or something they did. Find an adjective that you appreciate and link it to a story of a specific example. E.g. You are so helpful. When you made lunch for me today, it made my day easier.

5. Set and focus on small goals

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your depression won’t be cured in a day either. Set realistic goals, that are attainable, and assist your partner as much as you can. For example, waking up at a certain time, or changing out of pajamas, getting x amount of minutes outdoors, etc. are all small manageable goals that can be done together.

6. Encourage the individual to seek assistance

Offer to assist the depressed individual in locating a doctor or therapist and accompany them on their initial session. Encourage your loved one to develop a detailed record of symptoms and conditions to bring to the doctor’s attention. Offer any aid the individual requires (and is willing to accept). Set a good example. Encourage the individual to live a better, happier lifestyle by doing so yourself.

7. Know when more help is needed

You didn’t cause, can’t cure, and can’t control depression in your partner. When nothing seems to be working or they are in significant distress, get qualified professional help. If your partner is actively threatening to end their life, or the life of someone else, get them to the nearest emergency department as soon as possible.

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