‘In sickness and in health’
Those were the vows you made to each other on your wedding day. Now that your spouse might be depressed, you want to support them, but you are unsure how to.
It is normal to first feel lost and confused. You might not have even noticed that your spouse was depressed as they may have tried to conceal their depression by acting like nothing’s wrong; they may still go to work regularly and have an active social life.
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable, among other symptoms (please refer to poster below for list of symptoms). An individual who experiences such symptoms every day for two weeks may suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. There are multiple possible causes of depression such as trauma, genetic factors or medication.
Living with depression affects a person’s mood, thoughts and behaviour, and can greatly impact the quality of one’s life and marriage if not well-managed.
How can I support my depressed spouse?
If your spouse has been diagnosed with depression, and you are feeling lost, take heart that you can play an important role in helping both of you overcome the challenges and power through your marriage! Social Worker at TOUCH Mental Wellness, Peggy Lim, shares how.
Be present with your spouse
Your first instinct may be to solve the problem by finding the best treatment for them. However, sometimes the best solution is to sit and listen to your spouse. Give them physical and emotional support by simply being there for them. Ask them, “What can I do to help you today?”
Adopt a non-judgemental stance
Your spouse might be very negative and ruminative, thinking of bad things that can happen. For you to hear this daily can be frustrating. Both parties can rub each other the wrong way if they do not communicate properly.
Instead of saying, "Why do you always think like that?" say “I may not understand exactly how you are feeling, but I hear you.”
You may not agree with everything they say, but acknowledging their concerns will help to validate their feelings. Invalidating your spouse’s emotions, even with good intentions, will create emotional distance because they feel that you do not understand or accept their feelings. This will tear your marriage apart instead of building it up.
Recognise that your spouse may need professional help for their depression. Getting therapy sounds intimidating and even taboo to some. Share with your spouse the symptoms of depression which you’ve noticed them displaying and show support by encouraging them to attend therapy. With their permission, you could even take the first step to make an appointment on their behalf if it is too daunting for them. Do also take the effort to understand how medications might affect your spouse’s mood so that you can be more prepared for lifestyle changes.
Women and men respond differently to depression. Men tend to keep to themselves and are less willing to seek help or talk about their emotions. According to a research about men and depression in the American Journal of men’s health, men tend to show their feelings through anger when struggling with depression. Meanwhile, women are more likely to ruminate and have intense feelings of guilt and sadness. Regardless of the difference, approach your husband or wife with patience and the willingness to understand them. Depending on their circumstances, they might require more time to recognise and identify their emotions honestly.
Be positive and avoid blaming
Most importantly, remember that depression is no one’s fault and it is not a dead end. With adequate love, understanding and support, your spouse can learn to manage depression and lead a fruitful life and fulfilling marriage.
Struggling with depression or want to find out more about supporting your spouse living with depression? Contact TOUCH Integrated Family Group at 6709 8400 or click here to find out more.
TOUCH Integrated Family Group (TIFG) aims to equip families with resources to face multi-faceted issues at different life stages. TIFG focuses on providing Resources to equip families to cope with different stressors, enabling families to strengthen Roles in transitions, and empower families to build Resilience. This is done through an integrated suite of services to support the family as a unit, with emphasis on education, intervention and advocacy.