How to help your depressed boyfriend
Are you partnered with someone who is depressed? Has he become withdrawn and isolated? Do you worry about his mental health? If the answer is yes, you wouldn’t be alone.
Here’s the hard truth: gay men (on average) are twice as likely to struggle with some form of a mood disorder when compared to our heterosexual counterparts.
There are many reasons for this, including family rejection, bullying, and internalized homophobia. There are other contributing factors too, including worries about acceptance and (for some) body image issues.
But this post isn’t about the why. Instead, it’s about the what.
Specifically, we’re talking about what you can do to help your boyfriend who may be living with depression. Below, I’m going to offer you five tips that can be called upon to assist your man when he’s feeling down.
Before continuing, it’s probably a good idea to review the common signs of depression as a starting point. Only a medical doctor or mental health clinician can make an official diagnosis. Still, knowing this information helps.
Symptoms of depression:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, or hopelessness
- Changes in appetite (including weight gain or loss)
- Sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or too little)
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Fatigue (even small tasks can require extra time)
- Anxiety or agitation
- Anger outbursts
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt (including ruminating on past events)
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Frequent thoughts of death, including suicidal thoughts
- Unexplained physical symptoms
How to Help Your depressed boyfriend
So, now that you know the symptoms, let’s move on to exploring what you can do to be supportive.
1. Learn about depression
One of the big mistakes people make (straight and gay) is assuming that depression is situational in nature. An example might be your boyfriend losing his job and becoming sad.
While unfortunate life events certainly can trigger a down mood, depression is a bit more complicated that that. That’s because the causes are multi-factorial in nature with symptoms that can vary over time.,
Here is a great website from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) that you can visit to find out more.
2. Be there
Sure, you can encourage your boyfriend to go to therapy or take part in group counseling. In fact, that’s not such a terrible idea (see tip 4).
But the real way you can help your man is by simply being there. Hold his hand, place your arm around his shoulder, or simply sit with him.
It’s OK to ask questions and make supportive statements like:
- How can I help?
- We will get through this as a couple.
- I am here for you.
- You are important to me.
- It sucks you are going through this now.
3. Create a low-stress home environment
When someone is feeling depressed, they often have difficulty with concentration. This means even the smallest tasks can become problematic.
That’s why if your man is depressed, you’ll want to create a low-stress environment. This doesn’t mean doing everything for him. Instead, I’m talking about helping him:
- Helping him to create structure around his day
- Establishing some type of chore schedule
- Giving positive reinforcement and focusing on the good things he is doing.
- Encourage him to have a voice in making healthy meals.
4. Explore (gently) treatment
If your man is going through periods of depression, there’s a good chance he needs professional help. This is where things can get tricky because he may not want this type of assistance.
Rather than tell him “you need to get help”, it may be better to take a more supportive approach. Here’s a few ways to approach:
- Express your concerns from a place of genuine love.
- Offer to help, including making and preparing for appointments.
- Share what you’ve learned about depression.
- Talk about treatment options, including psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
- Open up about your own struggles with depression and how treatment (therapy, medication, both) helped.
- Encourage him to work with a gay therapist so that he can be himself.
5. Practice patience
When someone is depressed, even simple things, like getting out of bed, can seem overwhelming. For partners of the depressed, this lack of drive and energy can seem confusing and even frustrating.
But shaming your man for his inability to attend to certain activities isn’t going to help. In fact, it may make his mood worse.
Instead, it is far better to practice the art of patience. This means taking deep breaths and remembering … this too will pass.
As time goes on and your man goes through treatment, his mood will improve. Just don’t expect this to happen overnight.
If at any point you are worried about your boyfriend hurting himself, read this informative article from Live Strong. It offers concrete insight on what you can do.