Q: I have been with my girlfriend for 1 year now and I have a question concerning her depression. She was diagnosed with Dysthymia (a form of chronic depression) many years ago. She has seen many therapists and has been on diverse medications through the years. In the last year (since we’ve been dating) she has gotten off medication and her therapist said she did not require therapy anymore. She still has depressive moments, where she is depressed and doesn’t want to talk. She has very low self-esteem as well. She holds back from self- mutilation, even though she constently wants to harm herself when she is depressed. I would like advice on dating someone with dystemia, what are the things that I can do or should do when she is depressed? What are the things I should avoid doing to not trigger her depression? How can I help her see what a wonderful person she is and help her feel better about herself? She has said that even if I tell her she’s wonderful, beautiful and a great person, she still doesn’t believe it because she honestly believes she is a bad person.

A: It can be very difficult to love and care about someone with a mental health disorder. Probably the best thing you can do is to educate yourself about the disorder and just be as supportive and understanding as you can be. You cannot fix this for her. There are no rule books on what to do when someone is depressed. When in doubt, I suggest asking her what she wants/needs from you. But I also suggest being aware of your boundaries and not trying so hard to make things ok with her that you end up hurting yourself somehow. Maybe you could find a local support group for family and loved ones of persons with depression. Or you can get information online and in many self-help type books. I hope she is able to beat this and I hope the two of you find happiness. Good luck.