We get it. This article gets your attention because your partner is suffering from depression or anxiety, or other mental illness. And you don’t know what to do about it. Mental illness drives a wedge into your relationship and family life. It’s not hopeless, here are a few things you can do now.
1) Don’t jump into “fix it” mode and offer “solutions”. We understand, your spouse is feeling depressed and you want to fix it quickly and move on. Maybe you feel helpless for not knowing what’s going on. Maybe you feel nervous that your spouse might harm him/herself. Going into “fix it” mode is more about easing your own anxiety and it’s not about your spouse. Your spouse isn’t stupid, he/she can feel it and he/she would instinctively put up a defensive wall which disconnects you two further. ”Fix it” mode only isolates your partner further.
2) Listen. Like take a deep breath and truly listen…even when it’s hard. A big part of mental illness is isolation. We humans are social animals, we are not meant to be isolated. By truly listening to your spouse can help connect you two, and help him/her feel less isolated. When you get the person out of isolation, you beat 50% of the mental illness’ game.
3) Identify MVP. In tech world, there’s something called MVP – Minimally Viable Product. In everyday household, there’s MVP too – Minimally Viable Process – core chores/processes that make the household function minimally. Identist the core tasks that make the household function and only focus on those. You two are going through some rough time now, and now is not the time to stress about the small stuff.
4) Identify which MVP each of you can handle. We understand, the dishes are piling up. Things can get overwhelming when one spouse is going through rough times. Identify what MVP each of you can handle, have a game plan, write it down, and break down tasks into small chunks. It’s much easier to handle it little by little.
5) ASK, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” This is a hard question, I know. Many people wonder if asking this question would “encourage” the depressed person to kill him/herself. The answer is NO. If a person has a will to live, he/she wouldn’t comit suicide even if you ask that question. If a person is suicidal, that question can save a life. How you ask the question is key. When you feel nervous asking that question, your spouse would lie just to keep you calm. You need to keep calm and provide a safe space for the person to be forthcoming. Go to the mirror now, take a deep breath, and practice 100 times the question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” until you feel less nervous about it.
Get your partner to the hospital, and stay with him/her. Tell him/her that you really care that he/she is ok and that you will stay with him/her through this.
If you feel uneasy asking the question, see #6 below.
6) Call a mental health professional, please. A proper diagnosis and treatment would make a world of differences for your spouse and you (and the whole family). A qualified mental health professional will do suicide assessment, help with mapping out the unhealthy thoughts/feeling/behavior pattern, and strategize an action plan to disrupt that unhealthy pattern. Therapists at Women’s Therapy Institute are qualified mental health professionals that can help both of you get back on your feet.
You don’t need to do this alone when your spouse is suffering from mental illness. Give us a call. We work with men too.
Disclaimer: The articles in my blog are a matter of my opinion and perspective. They are meant to be educational only. Because they are general in nature, they should NOT be used as a substitute for getting qualified professional psychological, medical, or legal help should serious need arise. Please seek mental health or medical treatment from a qualified healthcare professionals.