Friday, June 20, 2008

Men and Depression

My husband is depressed … and I do not know what to do to help him. How can I be helpful?

Depression is the most common psychological problem in America today and it affects the whole family. Sometimes when people are depressed, they turn more into themselves, other times they are irritable and appear to be angry much of the time.

If you think that your husband is depressed, you may be experiencing many reactions yourself. You may be angry, hurt, frustrated, disappointed or even disgusted. You also probably feel pretty helpless about how you can be helpful.

Here are some beginning thoughts about how you might help your husband. These are far from an exhaustive list and we would welcome your own ideas about what you have learned.

1. Educate yourself about depression. There are lots of good sites on the web along with some good books. Learn about the common causes, symptoms and how to help someone who is depressed. We have some recommended reading and web sites on our own web site

2. Try not to take things personally. Recognize that depressed people generally do not sound or act in ways that they normally would when feeling well.

3. Be patient. Change takes a long time and people who are depressed have a considerable lack of energy.

4. Avoid complaining or nagging him about his behavior. In a very loving and non-judgmental way occasionally say things like:
“I worry about you. You seem to have lost your zest for life. Do you notice that change as well?”
“I see that you seem to be sleeping a lot more than usual … naps, sleeping in late (or sleeping very little) and I wonder if there might be something physically wrong with you. What do you think?”
“Try not to get upset with me when I say this because I love you and I want the best for us. You seem to be more irritable lately … in a bad mood a lot. I do not know if there is something specific bothering you, or if maybe you are just in a funk. What do you think?”

5. Notice what is happening when things are better. When you notice that he seems to be a little happier or in a better mood, let him know how happy you are that he seems to be feeling well. Wonder, maybe together, what is helping things go so well.

6. Take care of yourself. Depression can be contagious in marriages. Find ways to be with friends, exercise, eat right and plan pleasant times for yourself. Try not to “catch” his depression.

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