Newly Immigrated, and Feeling Depressed

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Reader’s Question

My husband is feeling depressed. He refuses to take the medication he was prescribed and he is very hesitant to call a consultant. I am really worried about him but don’t know how to help.

As a new immigrant to this country, I still can’t feel quite happy about my life here. I feel worthless in my career, do not have many friends, and I am far away from family and old friends. I don’t have enough resources to support myself. I often find myself tearful after he tells me he is depressed. I love my husband but I’m so scared of losing him because he tried to commit suicide in his early twenties when he had depression. I guess he is traumatized because of his broken family and disappointment toward his father, or he is unhappy about his career or financial pressure. But I can’t do anything to help.

We are both 32 years old and have been with each other for three years. We have been married for three months. I worry about him so much when I go to work. Sometimes I even forget my appointments with others. I spend 99% of my time with him pretending to be fine and happy. When he tells me his negative thoughts, I either feel upset or become depressed as well. I feel full of guilt and regret and don’t know what else I can do.

Psychologist’s Reply

It can be very difficult to deal with someone who is depressed, particularly if they refuse to help themselves. In your situation, this difficulty is magnified because you’re also dealing with your own ‘growing pains’ associated with adjusting to life in a new country. It is quite normal to be sad about leaving behind your social network and not yet having a good foothold where you are currently. One of the best things to do after moving to a new place is to get out, meet new people and experience what joys the area has to offer. However, given your husband’s depression, I’m guessing that this is something you two have not been doing.

Depression can be very challenging because people who suffer from it rarely want to do much of anything. They also tend to dwell on their sadness and negative thoughts. The tricky part is that treatment involves doing exactly what the depressed person doesn’t want to do: changing their thoughts and becoming active. The good news is that these things could help you as well. If the two of you start getting out of the house and meeting new people, it may help you feel more comfortable in your new home and provide him with new thoughts to replace the old. It could also take away the pressure you feel to cure him and always be fine.

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You cannot make your husband take medication or consult a counselor. As you pointed out, neither can you change the circumstances of his life that are causing him to be depressed. However, there are things you can do. In addition to getting out and having new experiences, perhaps the two of you can do some reading on treatment for depression. There are some really good workbooks for depression that offer suggestions for exercises and behavioral changes. If he refuses to do this, perhaps you can do the reading or go through the workbook by yourself. If you change the way you do things, he will have to change simply in response to the differences in you.

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