The Mayo Clinic states the following. “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest… It affects how you feel, think, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.”
Depression in relationships is a significant stressor. It isn’t fun being with someone who needs constant propping up. If you are with a depressed person, you may feel resentful, guilty, or want to escape. You may feel desperate to get your partner help. You may feel sad that they are so depressed. You may also be scared.
If you are a depressed person, you may be concerned that you are pulling your partner down. You may believe that you are too much work for them. At the same time, you may be afraid of being abandoned.
Severe depression brings up a multitude of feelings in both the depressed person (and the partner).
These feelings can include:
- Feeling of sadness
- Angry outbursts or irritability
- Agitation or anxiety
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
- Suicidal ideation
You can read more about major depressive disorder here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007.
Additionally, you may be concerned about the suicidality of your partner or yourself.
Suicidality is scary. We don’t want our partner to hurt or kill themselves. If we are suicidal, we may not truly want to die. But whether we are the partner of someone who is suicidal or we are suicidal ourselves, we may feel powerless and not know what to do.
Relationship problems and depression in relationships contribute to suicidality. Our need to be loved and cared for is so great, that when we feel that our relationship is falling apart, or we feel abandoned, the stress we experience can push us towards desperation and sometimes depression and suicide. We don’t always feel we can live without our connection to our partner.
If your or your partner occasionally moves into the realm of suicidality, you need to deal with those desperate feelings. For a look at how our wounds can amp up relational discord and how to deal with it, read When Wounds Collide.
Why would someone become suicidal and depressed?
People become suicidal and depressed when they become disconnected from meaning and reasons to desire to live. Consequently, they cannot find meaning for their experience, hopes, or life. Interior images or thoughts may haunt and rather than support them.
When suicidal, people become disconnected from the qualities of:
- Goodness (of others, themselves or the world)
- Worth or value
- A reason to live
How have they lost hope?
People can lose a sense of meaning via a variety of ways:
- They no longer trust something they previously trusted
- They do not believe life is good.
- They feel like a pawn
- They feel used
- They have been traumatized
- They have been dehumanized
- They feel incapacitated
- They have lost a connection to their meaning-making process via disillusionment of their ideals
- They do not know how to find a sense of purpose in their new paradigm
- They have lost a sense of their value
- They have lost an understanding of the value of living
- They feel isolated
- They have lost something or someone that was central to their life and meaning-making
As a result of any of the above, they have disconnected from a positive life force and no longer wish to live.
Preventing and reversing suicide
Preventing and reversing suicide requires reconnecting that person with meaning and support. It also requires helping that person hold any trauma they have experienced.
What do they need?
- They need to be seen
- They need to be acknowledge
- They need support
- They need to know their experiences have value
- They need to know they are more than pawns
- They need to make meaning of their experiences
- They need to resolve their trauma to some degree (possibly by sharing)
- They need to take their experience and incorporate it into their life in a positive way.
- They need to create a new meaning map for their lives.
How do we help the depressed or suicidal person?
Get them to share their losses and experiences that have contributed to their depression or suicidality.
Help them identify which feelings they relate to:
- Hurt or sad
- Afraid or anxious
- Alone or lonely
Ask them to tell you about that feeling and listen with care and empathy.
Help them find a sense of connection to goodness or other qualities from which they have disconnected.
And get professional help. If you or someone you love needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
To learn more about WeConcile and how it helps couples improve their relationships, read What is WeConcile.
Depression (major depressive disorder). (2018, February 03). Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
Goulston, M. (2018, September 11). The Surprising Reason People Die by Suicide. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from https://members.nationalwellness.org/blogpost/1644820/309205/The-Surprising-Reason-People-Die-by-Suicide
Magen, E. (2018, June 21). Relationship Problems Are A Leading Cause for Suicide. Retrieved June 17, 2020, from http://www.supportiverelationships.org/home/relationship-problems-are-a-leading-cause-for-suicide/