How to help the man in your life when he’s struggling

Kinderling News & Features

There’s nothing more discombobulating than watching the person you love suddenly change right before your eyes.

According to GP Dr Elysia Thornton Benko, one in eight men will experience some form of depression and anxiety in their lives.

The symptoms present differently. Some men are less affectionate, others may tend to moodiness, raising their voice or having uncharacteristically less patience. Or perhaps he’s just more withdrawn or quiet, not interested in social events, staying late at work or not coming home at all.  

Add little children to the mix, your own bewilderment and exhaustion, plus the chaos of family life - and the metamorphosis can be enough to tip your whole world upside down.

The shift in your family dynamic can also be terrifying.

So what can you do to help when the man in your life appears to be in crisis? 

Elysia told Kinderling Conversation these situations can be extremely challenging to face as a partner, and keeping perspective is vital.  

1. Aim for calm communication

Find a time to broach your concerns, carefully. This is not always easy because some of us are more insightful and emotionally intelligent than others.

"You might recognise the signs but sometimes your partner can’t, or they just don’t want to. If at first you don’t succeed, give it time and try again," suggests Elysia.

2. Encourage them to visit the GP

Frame the suggestion as a regular preventative health check-up, for things like blood pressure and cholesterol.

“A good GP will hopefully probe a bit more and ask questions about mental health, too. This is a good start to get the wheels in motion,” says Elysia.

Listen to Dr Elysia Thornton Benko talk men and mental health on Kinderling Conversation

 3. Email them a link they can read

Sometimes it can be easier to just send a friendly, “Thought this might be of interest” type of email with a link to a podcast or an article that discusses the issues.

“This can be an alternative way to let your partner know you’re thinking of him, and offers another way into the conversation,” says Elysia.

 4. Reaching out to a trusted friend

Sometimes your partner’s relative or trusted friend can be the best person to ask them how they’re doing. The perspective of someone outside your relationship can sometimes be less confronting.  

5. Try not to take their behaviour personally

Anxiety and depression can manifest in challenging ways; some people can become a bit mean or nasty if their personality shifts.

“When we all feel pressured and exhausted it can be easy to think, ‘Why can’t you just be nice to me?’ and take the behaviour personally. Try and sit back and see it objectively, ask what else could be going on,” says Elysia.  

Remember: You can only try your best

"Sometimes you can do everything in your capacity and it won’t make a difference. It can become an almost impossible situation if the person you love won’t recognise they have a problem," says Elysia. "The earlier you try something, the better, but you also need to look after yourself."

If reading this article has triggered anxious feelings for you or in relation to someone you love, know that there is plenty of support out there. Don't be afraid to reach out.

Relationships Australia, Lifeline and Beyond Blue are all great resources for help and support.