Depression Affects Everyone
Dealing with a depressed husband who is in denial is not easy. But, by not addressing the issue, your husband continues to be ill or get worse, even suicidal, and you lose out as well. Depression makes men feel like they are worthless and hopeless. They can’t change how they feel without treatment. “Depression isn’t just your husband’s problem; it’s your problem and your children’s too. Luckily, there are ways to address the issue,” Totten explains. “The top priority is to get your husband into treatment. You have to ask yourself, ‘What have I got to lose?’ You simply need to take action for everyone’s sake.”
Terrence Real, a psychotherapist and author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, offers his perspective, “Women in a relationship with a depressed man feel faced with a painful dilemma. They can either confront the man with his depression – which may further shame him – or else collude with him in minimizing it, a course that offers no hope for relief.” He offers some strong advice to women, “You absolutely have the right, even the obligation, to put your foot down. You have to insist on good health in your family. It serves no one any good to back off; go to the mat on this issue. It affects your husband and marriage, and
absolutely your children.”
He reminds women, “Remember, you are still married and at one time he listened to you. Don’t be afraid to make this a fight. This is no time to stand on ceremony. Make a doctor’s appointment, go out to dinner afterwards, be romantic, or bribe him; whatever it takes.”
What Wives Can Do
Totten was able to help her father get diagnosed and treated for depression; but only after tragically losing her brother to suicide over fifteen years ago because he was never diagnosed. She realized her dad was exhibiting signs of depression and started Families for Depression Awareness, after finding no help for families who wanted to get involved in a relative’s treatment.
Totten says she had to call her father’s doctor and tell him her father had depression. But she didn’t know how to get him to see the doctor. “Finally, my dad said he thought he had the flu, but he didn’t. I agreed with him and was able to get him to the doctor under this pretense.”
With a resistant spouse, Totten believes women need to take a similar tack. “Call the doctor and explain that your husband has depression. Explain what the symptoms are. Then, make the appointment for him. Go with him. If he resists, ask him to do it just for you, to make you feel better.”
Anne Sheffield, author of Depression Fallout, agrees with Totten. “Denial is very common, particularly in men. They think depression is a sign of weakness, or someone with it is mentally defective.” She reinforces that wives should not be accusatory and instead need to address different behaviors, like sleep problems, “It’s better not to say: I think you have depression. He is most likely to come back with ‘If anyone’s depressed it’s you!'”
She points out even though men may willingly go to talk therapy, sometimes they are unwilling to take any sort of medication because of a possible loss of libido. “He doesn’t want to be stuck with no sex drive.” Sheffield stresses to try different or a mix of medications and “tell your husband to give it at least six weeks to work.”
Laura Rosen, PhD, co-author of When Someone You Love Is Depressed, says wives need to educate their husbands. “Leave brochures out; highlight a section so he has some understanding.” She suggests, “I’ve noticed you don’t seem yourself…it would help me if you talk about it; I’m up at night and really anxious.” Collaborate together and then go so far as to get a consultation, get a name, and make an appointment.”
Another way to get husbands educated is to have them take an anonymous depression questionnaire that tells a person whether they may be suffering from depression.