Understanding how depression affects your partner can be key to building a healthy, supportive relationship that supports both people’s mental wellbeing. Depression can cause people to withdraw, behave differently or become more irritable. Common symptoms include insomnia, feelings of worthlessness and loss of interest in activities. It can even lead to physical aches and pains. Living with depression for a longer period of time can take a toll on your partner’s levels of energy, motivation and passion. It’s important not to take changes personally or as a reflection of your partner’s investment in the relationship. The following suggestions may be useful:

“Keep doing things that you both enjoy.”
Depression, like many mental health problems, can take over your life. It’s important to remember and remind your partner that the depression diagnosis is only a part of their identity. They also have many other roles and interests. Being able to fulfil these roles is a big part of recovery. We know that exercise and staying active can protect our mental health. You may like to suggest going for a walk or visiting your favourite places. Keep trying but don’t push too much if they aren’t ready to join you. You may notice gradual changes in their mood, rather than a massive improvement from one moment to the next.

“Be understanding and listen.”
Watching a loved one go through a difficult time may leave you searching for the perfect solution. Practical advice and tips can help, but sometimes rather than trying to “fix a problem”, it’s better to listen to your partner. Try and be a safe place for them to turn to. Don’t dismiss their feelings. Offer hope and remind them of better days and that it’s likely that things will improve again.

“Try not to take the negativity around you personally and make sure you get to have a break.”
Being the main source of support for a partner living with depression can add a lot of pressure on you. It’s important to look after yourself and ask for support when you need it. Opening up conversations to your friends and families and getting them involved usually makes a big difference in tackling the stigma and building a circle of support for both of you. Good communication with your partner is very important – remember that your needs and opinions should be met and respected too.

“Get educated and encourage professional help.”
Gaining knowledge will help you guide your partner through their depression, but gently encouraging them to seek out professional help does not mean you have failed. Rather, understand that your partner may need care that you don’t have the tools to provide.

“Let them know that you love them no less because of it.”
Living with depression can be exhausting and isolating. It helps to know that someone cares for and supports you, no matter what. It might also be helpful to direct your partner to some self-help resources on the EAP Assist website.