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I think my husband may be depressed. How do I broach the subject? Add to ...

Welcome to The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre, where our psychologist, family doctor, dietitian, trainer and pediatrician answer your personal health questions. Look for a new Q&A each weekday here.

The question

My husband has been going through a difficult emotional time for several months. I suspect he may be depressed but he hasn't brought this up himself. How can I broach the subject without pushing him away or making him defensive?

The answer

Unfortunately, there's still a lot of stigma in our society about psychological health issues. Many people initially have a hard time accepting that they may have a mood issue.

This can make talking to a loved one about their mood difficult. It's very natural to feel nervous about how to approach the topic.

Start by having a gentle, open conversation. You could say something like, "I've been worried about you as you just don't seem your usual self these days." This may be enough to start a conversation about what he is experiencing.

If it isn't, you may have to gently probe or push a bit more. You could say, "I've been worried about how to bring this up with you, but I'm concerned you may be having some mood issues. I wonder if it might help to talk to someone." You could suggest that the two of you see his family physician together to talk about your concerns.

When you are going through a difficult emotional time, it helps to know that there is a supportive, caring person in your life. So, even if your husband doesn't initially respond the way you might hope, rest assured that you are doing the right thing by reaching out.

Keep in mind that your husband may be blaming himself; he may think that he is "weak" if he can't deal with his problems on his own, and he may be feeling that he is letting you and your family down. It is important to reassure him that none of these things are true.

Be patient, let him know you support him unconditionally and that you are there to listen when he is ready to talk.

A number of free resources for family members are available at www.heretohelpbc.ca.

Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Samra.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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