How to talk to a spouse with depression

Support of the spouse can prevent the symptoms of depression from increasing. Encouraging treatment for feelings of hopelessness, lack of sleep, change in appetite, thoughts of suicide aids in recovery and sustains the couple's relationship.

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  • “Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States according to National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

  • Diane had suffered from depression for 2 years. It had been difficult for her husband James to understand her change of attitude, her inability to prepare meals, and the loss of enjoyment in personal activities. Through time he had come to appreciate her need for his support. He realized her depression was valid. Her trial had been to endure the suffering. His trial had been to persevere, love, and strengthen his once healthy – fun-loving - energetic wife.

  • Talking About Symptoms of Depression

  • James had learned from Diane’s doctor that depression involved fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, inability to sleep, change in appetite, irritability and thoughts of suicide. James discussed these symptoms with Diane, also indicating he understood her frustration in her loss of enjoyment with handicrafts and scrapbooking. He explained to her the desire to participate in these activities and the elimination of her other symptoms would occur after treatment of medication and therapy. He gained insight from working with his wife and through empathy. He also had received continued helpful guidelines from her doctors.

  • Here are some other steps they took to improve their situation:

    • In the course of discussions with Diane’s therapist, James had learned the effects depression had had on Diane’s self esteem. He gave her hope by explaining that self esteem returns through therapy and when depression is alleviated.

    • James volunteered to read material with Diane on how others had dealt with depression and how they had been successful in overcoming it. She was not alone. He told her not to blame herself. It was not her fault.

    • He talked to her about the treatment of medication, and about personal and couples therapy. He told Diane that sometimes hospitalization may be necessary to adjust medications and receive continued therapy with qualified mental health professionals.

    • He supported her by reminding her on a regular basis that she was enduring and coping well. He learned through listening to her that her silent times meant sometimes she didn't feel like talking.

    • They exercised together. As they walked they talked. He acknowledged potential thoughts of suicide when she felt susceptible, telling her to come to him and accept help from professionals. They discussed the warning signs: talking about suicide or death, preoccupation with death, expressing feelings of hopelessness.

    • He explained to her his need to participate in his personal activities of jogging and fishing preparing him to be more proficient in listening to and helping her. He also involved other family members and friends for support.

    • He reassured her that he loved her in spite of her disability. Sometimes James didn’t say anything—he just held Diane and let the tears come.

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  • If you have a spouse that deals with depression, learn from the example of James and Diane and don't be afraid to get professional help. The battle against depression in a marriage shouldn't be fought alone.

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Jelean was raised in a small farming community with her nine brothers and sisters. She is an accomplished author. She enjoys creating scrapbooks for her grandchildren when they turn 12. Jelean writes about religion, personal and family experiences. She has been married for 51 years and has five children and 19 grandchildren.

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