Listen to them, look after yourself, and make sure they are seeking professional help
Prevention is better than cure. Be aware of the things that trigger depression and self-destructive behaviours, such as working too hard, placing unrealistic expectations on themselves, being overly self-critical. Learn the warning signs: changes in mood, drinking more, being snappy, poor sleep patterns, not looking after their appearance etc – you’re looking for sustained changes, everyone can have an off day. Get in early and challenge the person about their behaviour. Be firm but not confrontational – argument is counter-productive. Try to help your partner admit there’s a problem, only then can recovery begin. The PHQ9 questionnaire (available online) is a good first tool to see if someone might be depressed and help you get appropriate treatment.
Be a good listener. This is harder than you may imagine, especially if your partner starts talking about things that concern you and you want to answer back. But encourage your partner to open up – it may take time. Be prepared to face uncomfortable issues. To what extent are you part of the problem? Helping your partner may involve making difficult decisions so it is important to show them that you are open-minded and prepared to consider every possibility – but don’t go along with life-changing decisions they want to make while they are still feeling low. They may see things differently as they recover. Don’t tell them they have everything going for them and you don’t understand why they feel so low – it’s not reassuring. But gently helping people see the positives in their own life may be beneficial. Don’t say: “Pull yourself together!”