Taking Care of Your Partner
Perhaps the single most important action you can take is to assist your spouse in getting proper diagnosis and treatment for his or her depression from a health care professional.
This is not the time to try to make him or her take responsibility. Not going for treatment is generally not a reflection of irresponsibility. It’s part of the illness. A sense of hopelessness is common to all depressive illnesses and may be the very thing that keeps your spouse from getting needed help! You can gradually turn responsibility back over to him or her when he or she has accepted the diagnosis and is actively working on getting better. In the meantime,
- If you have to be the one to schedule the appointment with your spouse’s doctor or therapist, do it!
- If you want to ensure that your spouse gets to the appointment, arrange the necessary transportation or provide it yourself.
- If medication is prescribed, remind your spouse that it will take several weeks for the effects of medication to be experienced. Remain patient, supportive, and reassuring about the eventual success of treatment.
- Offer to assist in monitoring the pill-taking and refill process to ensure that the medication schedule is followed closely to ensure the maximum benefit.
Once the depressed person is under a professional’s care, you can add other kinds of supports:
- Encourage, but do not “push,” activities, hobbies, sports, and games that gave your spouse pleasure in the past. Inactivity is common during depressive episodes and can prolong the depressive cycle.
- Encourage him or her to be physically active. You can start with something as simple as taking walks together. As your spouse feels a bit better, you can encourage him or her to get to a gym, to get on a bike, to exercise to a videoanything that gets him or her moving.
- Make an effort to find things that will make him or her laugh. Rent a comedy video, share a joke, do some gentle teasing, draw on your own sense of the absurd. Laughter is the enemy of depression.
- Don’t ignore or make light of suicidal talk. There is a risk for suicide at all phases of depressive illness. Be sure to alert your spouse’s doctor or therapist to suicidal talk it is likely to be a request for help!