Seeing your loved one struggle with depression is not easy – and can, oftentimes, make you feel helpless. While you can't singlehandedly help your partner get better, you can be there as a source of strength, positivity, and encouragement.
Here's how + where to start if your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife needs professional help for depression:
1. Open a compassionate dialogue about your concerns
The first step is to talk to your partner and let them know your concerns. Express to them what it is that you are seeing in their behavior that leads you to thinks they're feeling depressed.
Be open and honest as well as understanding – and remember that they may not see their own symptoms as clearly as you do.
Be as gentle and compassionate as you can be, and try to use "I" statements so as to avoid seeming interventional.
Try a variation on the following line:
- “I love you so much; you know that mean the world to me. I'm concerned that everything is not 100% okay – is there something we can talk about?"
Be patient, and don't push for answers! For many, there's a stigma regarding mental health – as well as a feeling of “that would never happen to me” or “I’m weak if I admit I'm depressed.”
Remember that breaking through that stigma takes time; your partner might not open up immediately, but knowing that you're aware, and there to talk, can be a big relief in itself.
2. Learn about different treatment options for depression
One of the last things anyone is even able to do when they're struggling with depression is face the seemingly insurmountable task of getting treatment.
Here's where you can really help: By figuring out different treatment options for depression. Below are a few to get you started.
Talk therapy for depression
Most therapists are equipped to treat depression, but their approaches will differ. Common options include:
There are also alternative approaches, such as:
If stigma is a barrier, look for a therapist your partner can see online in the comfort and privacy of their own home.
Medication for depression
For some, medication helps alleviate the symptoms of depression.
If the depression is caused by genetics or a chemical imbalance in the brain, then medication may be enough to help your loved one live symptom free.
Medication combined with talk therapy for depression
If your partner's depression is caused by a traumatic or life event then the combination of medication and talk therapy can assist your loved one in dealing with depression.
Studies have found, for example, that using medication in conjunction with talk therapy actually has a greater success rate that medication alone .
3. Offer to schedule appointments with providers
Once you have a clear understanding of treatment options and your partner is open to getting help, offer to do the legwork for them.
- Contact your partner's primary care provider for a referral
- Look for a therapist directly on a platform such as Zencare
- Create a list of providers for them to consider
Removing this burden allows them to focus exclusively on their mental health, making a world of difference in their overall treatment experience.
4. Continue to be supportive throughout their journey
One of the best things you can do for your partner is to just be there.
No matter where they are in their treatment plan – whether they haven't admitted they need help, or have been seeing a therapist for a few sessions already – you can be a source of encouragement. Stay connected with questions and statements like "What can I do to help?"and "I'm here for you – we'll get through this together."
For more ideas, here are ways to be supportive for your partner when they have depression.
Be patient with your partner, and encourage the small victories along the way. And remember to take care of yourself throughout the journey, too – it can be emotionally exhausting to channel unconditional support towards someone you love!