Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,
My significant other has been having a really hard time lately. They’ve been depressed for a few months now and I think this is the first time they’ve ever dealt with depression. I’m not sure I’ve been much help. I can offer support, but I’m obviously not a professional. They don’t really want to see a professional though, and I understand that’s their choice, but as their SO I’m worried about them. How can I broach the topic of them seeking professional support?
A Worried Partner
I’m also not a medical professional, so I can only point out some possible ways to broach the topic of therapy. However, if you’re legitimately worried that your significant other might hurt themselves, you’re obligated to get them help whether or not they want it. But I’m hoping that’s not the case. Here’s how to go about suggesting professional help. First of all, approach them at a good time. If they’re stressed, drunk, high, or really low, the conversation won’t go anywhere. It might be hard to find a good time if your SO has been depressed for months, but wait for an opportune moment. A walk, a long drive, or lunch at their favorite restaurant are all good ideas. As far as the conversation goes, you already have the right idea: focusing on yourself. By using phrases like “I’m worried about you” instead of “You need help,” your SO will be less defensive. If your SO doesn’t understand why you’re worried, use specific examples, such as “You didn’t go to class three times last week” or “You don’t make plans with your friends anymore.” Hitting them hard with reality will be a shock, so reemphasize how much you love them, that you’re concerned, and that you just want them to be happy. With all the stigma that’s unfortunately still attached to counseling, it’s not surprising that your SO is wary of professional help. However, encouraging them to go to therapy doesn’t mean that they have to start seeing somebody once a week every week for an indefinite period. Suggest going to just one session. Offer to walk with them to the HCC if they want to see somebody at Reed, or pick out a few practitioners in Portland that you think they would like. They’ll feel more at ease and will be more likely to go if you have their back. If a close friend of theirs has more experience with depression or finding counselors, it might be a good idea to reach out to their friend to see if they’d be willing to bring it up in a casual way. Above all else, avoid making it into a confrontation or intervention, or you risk scaring off your SO. If you’re patient and supportive, I’m confident they’ll get the help they need.
Miss Lonely Hearts