Watching someone you love unravel is hard work.
He is angry all the time. He is impatient and I don’t know what’s wrong. He’s not sleeping. He’s anxious. The other day was his first day off work in three weeks. He started drinking at 8am. When I ask him if he’s okay, he gets angry. When his friends ask him if he’s okay, he shuts down. If he’s not working, he’s not doing anything. He doesn’t talk anymore. He’s just stressed or asleep or drinking. All. The. Time. I don’t know what to do. – Nicole, 29.
Almost overnight, we made the transition into serious problems. (Well, millennials did at least)
Maybe it’s because mental health is, finally, receiving the attention it deserves. We are more aware of the signs and symptoms of trouble than ever before.
Maybe it’s because life’s problems are more serious. Heavier. There is more talk about financial stress, uncertain futures, kids with problems, global insecurity, endless expenses. Suddenly phrases like depression, anxiety, stress, substance abuse are sneaking into our discussions.
These conversations, particularly when they’re about a partner like in the passage above, are brushed with helplessness.
Nicole is 29 and she is worried her partner has depression. She’s worried he’s turning to alcohol, instead of to her, to deal with it.
There is a huge gender gap, not in depression itself, but in the number of suicides committed. Why? Because men are not as likely to recognise or respond to feelings of distress. Instead, particularly Australian men, have a tendency to shut down. Remain stoic. Not discuss their feelings or the ways in which they’re struggling. This means the way they do find to deal with it is more dramatic and, too often, final.
So how to help someone, who will not help themselves?