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Ask ShanTellem: He’s Depressed. Help!

Dear ShanTellem,

I’ve been seeing a guy for a little over a month, but we’ve been friends for six years. I’ve always known that he has battled depression, but I thought he was improving since he had not mentioned it. That was until now. Lately, I’ve noticed that my boyfriend is reclusive, doesn’t seem happy to see me and does not want to do anything. I asked him if he was dealing with depression again, and he said yes and requested some time to himself. I am being respectful of his needs, but this is bringing me down too. How can I help? I just want him to be better.

Signed,

Suffering

Dear Suffering,

Depression is something that can vary in intensity, but is very serious nonetheless. Is your mate receiving help from a professional? Many mental illnesses are hard to understand by those who do not suffer from them. While I understand that you “just want him to be better,” this doesn’t sound like it’s simply something that your significant other can “get over.”

The fact that he was honest with you about his current mental state speaks volumes. Often, mental illness is something that many feel ashamed to admit, and that’s if they are aware that they suffer from it. Given the number of years you’ve known each other, you should have a pretty solid idea of how he deals with conflict. You mentioned that he is withdrawn and doesn’t want to do much. That’s pretty normal for someone who is temporarily depressed, but if it goes on for too long, seek help.

Also, have you tried to talk to him about how he is feeling? Granted, you’re no clinical psychologist, but sometimes talking things through with a loved one helps. It will also give you insight into whether this is just a seasonal bout of depression or something that requires more serious attention. One thing is for sure: he needs love and support now more than ever. Be respectful of his request for space, but also be sure to know when to intervene.

As for your own mental and emotional state, dating someone with a mental illness can be quite challenging. People with mental illness deserve love just like everyone else, but not at the expense of your own health. You have to realize that you should not take things personally, no matter how you may be treated. Understand that life with him could be a bit unstable, and you will have to work together as a unit to battle this disease.

Also, it is up to the both of you to determine if he is in the correct state of mind to be in a committed relationship right now. There’s no right or wrong answer to that question, and honesty will only help bring you closer together.

Good luck and I wish you the best.

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Shantell E. Jamison is a digital editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. She’s also a radio personality, and cultural critic. Her debut book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self” is available now at Amazon.com.