By Rodney Robertson, D. Min., M.A., M.Div., Director of Family Services at The Ranch Deborah was devastated when she lost her job at age 42. She blamed herself for not being capable enough and went from her usual schedule of getting up for work to barely leaving home. She dwelled on all the things that were wrong in her life. Her mind filled with dark thoughts of ending it all. But she was afraid to tell anyone, especially her husband, Ken, who was typically the most supportive person in her life. One day he came home and lost his temper. \u201cYou have to snap out of this, Deb,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s not the end of the world.\u201d To Deborah, it was the end of her world as she knew it. She was suffering from depression. That meant her marriage was too. Their family life and intimacy eroded, and he felt helpless. Deborah and Ken, and so many couples like them, find themselves faced with depression. Depressive disorders are one of the most common mental disorders. They affect about 6.7% of the population in the United States, or about 15 million people. Here are some of the ways to help your spouse \u2014 and yourself\u2014 through depression. DO Learn about depression. Depression is an illness, not just \u201cthe blues.\u201d People with depression cannot always put their feelings and experiences into words so keep an eye out for these signs lasting longer than two weeks: \tInability to concentrate \tExcessive crying \tIrritability \tLoss of interest in activities they usually enjoy \tExhaustion \tExcessive sleep, restless sleep or insomnia \tOvereating or not eating enough \tIsolating and keeping to themselves \tPhysical pain \tMaladaptive coping behaviors such as alcohol or drug use Beware of avoidance. Depression causes people to become focused on themselves, which can push loved ones away. Rather than avoiding the problem and letting it fester, address it so that you can both begin to heal. \u00a0Open the lines of communication. Studies show depressed spouses avoid challenging situations because they're afraid of what response they might get. Try to listen without judgment but also make efforts to communicate in an assertive (not aggressive) way, such as \u201cI\u2019m going to tell you how I'm feeling.\u201d When you share feelings it allows your depressed loved one to express theirs.\u00a0 Stay emotionally healthy. Partners often become emotionally deregulated; for example, they may feel stressed, anxious or angry or they may become all-consumed by their spouse\u2019s depression. Marital difficulties are known to lead to depression so make sure you take care of your own needs too. Get to the root. While someone may become depressed after a loss, as Deborah did when her work life crumbled, there can be countless reasons your partner is suffering. Mental health professionals are your best sources for helping your spouse get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Work together to figure out the underlying causes of depression, evaluating medical issues such as hormonal imbalances and co-occurring illness or addictions, as well as issues related to early trauma. Share your truth. Without blame or criticism, explain your experience with your partner\u2019s depression, using statements like, \u201cI feel helpless seeing you like this and want to help. When I can\u2019t, I get upset.\u201d You can be honest without being upset and your gentle approach will create a comfort zone for your partner. DON\u2019T Lash out in frustration. Getting angry or upset may drive the person further into isolation. To maintain healthy communication, avoid these common, hurtful phrases: \tWhat\u2019s your problem? This aggressive language may feel like an attack to your loved one. \tWhy can't you get over this? This statement minimizes the problem. When a loved one has depression, it\u2019s not realistic to think they can just move on and everything will be fine. \tEnough already! Phrases like this are debilitating and harmful. Try to control your partner. Don\u2019t try to be a therapist, doctor or superhero and resolve your partner\u2019s symptoms. The solution does not lie in taking charge of the person\u2019s day to day existence or trying to control every aspect of their life in hopes that it will make them better. You can\u2019t be the one to \u201cfix \u201cyour loved one but you can lead them toward help. Finding Balance When one partner is depressed and the other is not, it is important to practice empathy and compassion. Sometimes, for the person who is depressed, being heard and accepted is the first step toward recovery. Elizabeth\u2019s depression and Ken\u2019s frustration were the perfect storm for damaged communication. Ken, realizing he had more resilience and emotional resources, made the first move. He sat down with his wife and said calmly, \u201cI understand that you're not feeling well. I understand that you're depressed. Now we have to find ways to help you. I as your husband am not the person but I can support you in finding the right resources.\u201d Empowering your partner to find the help they need gives them an opportunity to figure it out for themselves and begin making strides. Elizabeth is still dealing with her symptoms but found the combination of help needed to begin rebuilding her life.