“If you’re living with somebody who is depressed and feeling helpless — and oftentimes doesn’t want to get help — then you can start to feel depressed and helpless,” Dr. Amador explained.
It is imperative that you support your own mental health, both Dr. Amador and Dr. Brown emphasized. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, reach out to a health care provider for evaluation. But even if you are not, you may find it helpful to see a therapist or to join a peer-led support group.
Mr. Zuckerman is a volunteer facilitator of a National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, support group for families and partners of people with mental health conditions. And it has helped him connect with a community of people who understand what he is going through. Every other week, Mr. Zuckerman and 10 to 15 or so other partners discuss coping skills; help each other process feelings of grief or guilt; and offer a safe space to share their challenges and successes.
Make time for things you enjoy.
In addition to connecting with a therapist or support group as needed, it is also important to find other ways to prioritize self-care. It does not have to be time-consuming or complicated, Dr. Brown said. Simply getting out of the house for a bit and making time for the activities you enjoy can help protect your own emotional well being when your partner is struggling.
Spend time outside in nature, get involved in some form of advocacy or move your body. Research has shown, for instance, that jogging for 15 minutes a day, or doing less strenuous exercise like walking or gardening for an hour, may have a protective effect against depression.
And “socialize, socialize, socialize — whatever that looks like for you,” Dr. Amador recommended. “It is really important to get that social support and release.” You may encourage your partner to join you in your efforts to get out and exercise or connect with others, but keep in mind that loss of interest in normal activities or hobbies is a symptom of depression.
Mr. Zuckerman’s wife — who has given her husband her blessing to share their story, but only without disclosing her name — has been stable for three years, and said things between the couple are “great.” They go to movies, concerts and dance performances together. They cook, spend time with their grandchildren and attend synagogue.