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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How to help boyfriend with chronic depression- positivity doesn't work

    My boyfriend and I have been together 4 years, 3 living together. He has had severe depression the whole time. I am loving and supportive and tell him I won't give up but he is starting to have resentment because he says I can't talk him through his feelings. I grew up in a family where we didn't talk about feelings so I am just learning and I admit Im not good at it yet. He is starting to push me away. He is cold and angry. Yells at me all the time. Tells me I am not good enough. It is painful but I know its his depression speaking. I am an optimist but this doesn't help him. It makes him angrier. Any suggestions how to talk to someone where positivity doesn't work? I am desperate to help him. It makes my heart ache and I cry all the time now which makes him more angry. He has withdrawn from activities that used to make him happy. He cannot work due to the depression so I am working a part time job and we are struggling with money so I can't afford therapy for him.
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    Having a supportive network is helpful but inevitably it is up to the individual themselves to help themself. I would suggest to keep trying to search for a bulk billing psychologist around your preferred area. the australian psychological society has a 'find a psychologist' section can be a good start to get contact details to enquire about whether they bulk bill. I would also suggest to speak withhis gp if havent already done so to help locate a bulk billing psychologist.

    Often people question what is wrong with them but the question is what has happened to the person that has led to them feeling the way they do. Ideally, it is more helpful to focus on increasing awareness and undeŕstanding of our thoughts and feelings, allowing them to come and go rather than trying to control them. There is also a commin tendency to spring into 'action mode' in attempts to quickly alleviate the feelings. However, active listening and validation of feelings can often be the fundamental 'strategy' to utilise.

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    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    Depression is really hard on relationships! As Stephanie says, it is up to your boyfriend to access and make use of medical treatment and/or psychological help - this is NOT your responsibility, and trying to take responsibility for that will not be helpful to you or your boyfriend. You may benefit from a couple of things - Sane Australia and Beyond Blue websites have great online resources for family and friends of people with depression https://www.sane.org/families-carers/34-helping-others-and-yourself. You may also benefit from counselling for yourself, to have a space just for you where you can be supported to think about your own self-care, and work on strategies that will help you in your relationship. Carers Australia offer funded counselling to family members of people with a diagnosed mental illness (they will link you to a counsellor close to where you are) http://www.carersaustralia.com.au/how-we-work/national-programs/mental-health-carer-counselling/. Relationship counselling may also be beneficial, to help you and your boyfriend together discuss the impact of his depression on your relationship, and assist you to work together on ways to manage this differently. All the best

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    Dr Pek Ang

    Psychiatrist

    Specialist Psychiatrist - management of Depression and Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, Bipolar, ADHD, Autism, Mood and Anger problems and Personality Disorders. Management of Psychological problems associated … View Profile

    Sound like your boyfriend has Chronic Depression and you have both tried your best so far.  Although there is often Psychological causes and reasons for this, a Biological predisposition is also found.  Does he have a family history of Depression or Heavy Alcohol or Drug use?  Depression can run in families, just like Hypertension or Diabetes.

    Agree that some couples work would be helpful.

    To best help your partner, I hope he has good insight into his illness.  Eliminating substances like Alcohol, Drugs and Comfort Eating will help.  Exercise, sunlight and learning Meditation can help too.  Psychological help with Chronic Depression is a specialised area...so find someone who can do this.

    He needs a good GP.  Psychiatric Assessment is needed.  Try your local Mental Health Services to find out if there is a Psychiatrist who specialises in Mood Disorders.  Otherwise you can get a referral to the Black Dog Institute for an Assessment.

    Best wishes.

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    Alicja Weidner

    Counsellor, Hypnotherapist, Social Worker

    Alicja Weidner is the Director and Principal Therapist at the H-L Therapy. at Modbury North, South Australia. She also subcontracts her services as an Independent … View Profile

    I also believe that it may be useful for you to obtain a specialist counselling to support you as a carer, as per Vivienne's advice above.  In addition to this, you could also ask your friends and family to be available for you to talk when required.  Injecting some exercise and fun into life may also be a good strategy for you to relax and allow some lighthearted time to balance your day.  This way you would ensure that you are well supported and regaining your strengths to continue supporting your boyfriend. 

    I would also like to encourage you to please be kind to yourself and refrain from negative thoughts, such as guilt and self blame.  Not everyone has the expertise to talk people through their feelings, especially if depression or mental illness is concerned. Often this is the purpose of a specialist, professional counselling.  You can however be a supportive partner in the way you know how to be.   And in situation of conflict you have the choice to leave the room and discuss the particular issue later, when both of you are in a better mood. 

    As already pointed out, your boyfriend can access various mental health support services. He could also ask his doctor for a bulk billed psychological counselling under the mental health plan to assist in talking through and dealing with his feelings. 

    With warm regards

    Alicja Weidner.

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    Dr Janine Clarke

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Dr Janine Clarke is a Clinical Psychologist with experience working with individuals and couples. Janine has trained extensively in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and … View Profile

    There is some very helpful information here, so I'm just going to add a few brief points about things that you might also find helpful.

    • Matthew Johnstone has written a fabulous book called 'Living With the Black Dog' that is aimed at people struggling with depression and those that care for them.  It's beautifully illustrated, inexpensive, very easy to read and most importantly very helpful.  You might like to take a look - you can find it online at Matthew Johnstone's website.
    • The Black Dog Institute has a freely available online treatment program for people with mild-to-moderate depression and anxiety that has been found to be effective.  The program is accessible at www.mycompass.org.au.  The program is not a substitute for face-to-face care for people with severe symptoms of depression, but it may provide a useful resource while you search for face-to-face treatment alternatives.  

    Warmly

    Janine

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