If your spouse is sad of course you would want to help. But depression is a more serious issue. It needs to handled differently than if someone is just having a bad day. If approached the wrong way it could hurt more than help.
Below is a list of some key signs of depression and then a list of DO’s and DON’Ts to help you help your depressed spouse!
No matter what continue to pray for them and show them God’s Love.
A few key signs of depression are:
- Daily sadness
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Restless, anxious or irritable behavior
- Trouble concentrating, focusing or remembering
- Excessive weariness and lethargy
- Sleeping or eating too much or too little
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Thoughts of suicide or death
If you recognize any of these symptoms persisting in a spouse for more than a few weeks, check with your family doctor.
Preparing Yourself to Help Your Depressed Spouse
Flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone next to you. In the same way, it’s important to prepare yourself before attempting to assist others when a spouse is depressed. Deep sorrow can be infectious, and it’s not uncommon for caregivers to develop symptoms of depression themselves. Guard against this possibility by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and staying in the Word.
Also keep an eye on your kids. Children are often vulnerable to a parent’s anxiety. One study indicates that 20% of 10-year-olds whose mothers suffered from depression were themselves victims within five years.
Don’t underestimate the value of caring friends and family at times like this. Let loved ones help you with day-to-day tasks, and allow them to listen to and pray with you. The surest way to intensify your struggle is to isolate yourself and your immediate family from those who love you.
Reaching Out to Help Your Depressed Spouse
When a spouse understands that clinical depression is a genuine medical condition, he or she may actually feel empowered. It’s encouraging to realize there are a number of tangible ways to help your depressed spouse:
- Pray fervently with and for them.
- Share meaningful Scripture verses.
- Help them see that the family needs them to get well.
- Listen; give credibility to their feelings.
- Seek help for yourself and offer to see a therapist with them.
- Encourage them to consider medication; research shows that 80% of those suffering from depressive disorders can be treated successfully with modern medications.
- Show affection; encourage them to get out and do things with you.
- Tell your loved one to just pray about it or make them feel like healing would come if they’d simply trust God more.
- Make them feel guilty for the impact of their illness on the family.
- Blame or criticize them.
- Imply that they need help because they’re weak. Also, don’t immediately exclude other family members from counseling. Sometimes, complex relational issues involving several family members can spark depression.
- Expect medication to solve everything. Also, don’t discount the need for prayer — and possibly therapy.
- Let them continue in a pattern of sleep and isolation.