A loved one’s depression can be…well depressing for those around him/her. You can feel guilty. You can feel to blame. You can be angry and controlling. It’s not easy. Living with a parent, spouse, child, or other individual who has depression can be so painful on a daily basis. You love them and want to help, but this is often fraught with the toll it takes on you, especially if you are a caretaker.

A Loved One’s Depression Is A Lot To Cope With

Even the most compassionate and loving person may find themselves overwhelmed with trying to cope with a loved one’s depression. But there are things that you can do to help you to remain in the relationship and keep your own sanity.

  • Read and learn as much as you can about depression. The more you learn, especially as you learn it isn’t the person’s fault, the more understanding you might be. Depression is a scary disorder, and knowing exactly what the illness is and isn’t can help with your relationship to the depressed person.
  • Join an online support group such as NAMI (nami.org) or go to a NAMI meeting.
  • Seek counseling for yourself and for the children.
  • Understand that this isn’t your fault. Depression is an illness like diabetes; it’s a health issue. You didn’t cause it; you can’t treat it.
  • Recognize the importance of medication and therapy. A rule of thumb is that 40% get better on medications only, 40% get better with therapy only, but 80% get better with the combination of both, while the other 20% struggling with a depression need other attention (including coping with other issues) and it may not go away. Be a support regarding these treatments.
  • Blaming does no good and saying dumb things (link to previous article) is harmful.
  • You may become sad and overwhelmed by the person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but this is not your depression. You are simply on overload by being around this person. You need to not take on your loved one’s issues.
  • Set boundaries for yourself (and for the children). This means that you limit what you can do for the depressed person as he/she/they need to take action on their own for their own needs.

How To Take Care Of  You

  • Love yourself by continuing your own life
  • When at work, focus on work
  • When at play, focus on play
  • Do activities with family and friends with and without the depressed person
  • Eat healthy, exercise, rest, and maintain hygiene as these are the basics one should do daily for themselves
  • Go to a place that’s quiet and reflect
  • Be in nature
  • Read/meditate/pray/walk/garden/swim/go out to dinner/go to a movie/play video games
  • Journal about your experiences (for your eyes only)
  • Treat yourself to a goodie now –and-then to reward yourself for your coping
  • If you have children who are affected, make sure they take care of themselves and do activities with them alone and stay on top of how they are doing at school or at work
  • Vent your feelings to a trusted friend or family member (but be aware of not over-burdening them with your issues)
  • Be kind to yourself

And finally, you may realize that you have to leave a relationship if this is too overwhelming. Yet you can’t just abandon a child who is depressed, so utilizing the above coping skills can be valuable for you. But if all else fails for your relationship with a spouse or if you’re caretaking a parent or other loved one, know that there is help available in the community.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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