Chances are we all know someone who has struggled with depression at some time in their life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression affects about 6.7 % of the US adult population in a given year. You may know someone who is struggling with depression, and this person could even be your spouse. Do you notice your loved one:
- Losing interest in things that used to excite them?
- Sleeping too little or too much?
- Overeating or not eating enough (or gaining/losing significant amounts of weight)?
- Having difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or completing tasks?
- Having a decrease in energy?
- Having irritable mood, restlessness, is continuously sad, or isolating themselves?
- Complaining of persistent physical ailments such as headaches, stomach aches, pains, or digestive problems?
If you answered “yes” to at least 2-3 of these, your loved one may be clinically depressed. What should you do when you notice him slipping further away from you?
Reach out. Talk to your spouse and say that you’ve noticed he has not been himself lately. Lend a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and a voice of compassion. Let him know that you are there to listen and to help, that you love him, and want the best for him.
Assess for immediate danger. Depression is linked to high rates of suicide, and you want to make sure that your partner is safe. Find out if he is having any thoughts of harm (even thoughts like, “I wish I was dead” or “The world would be better without me in it”). Next, ask if he has thought about a plan to harm himself and/or have access to a weapon. If he is having suicidal ideations, a plan, or intent to harm, you should take him to the nearest emergency room for a clinical assessment.
Encourage therapy. If your partner is not in immediate danger, but needs professional help, encourage him to confide in someone who is a trained professional. Talk therapy (speaking with a Masters or PhD level counselor) can help address the underlying causes of the depression, identify triggers, and teach coping skills. A therapist might also refer him to a Psychiatrist (a MD) who can prescribe medication if symptoms persist or are not responding to talk therapy.