My Partner Is Depressed, What Can I Do?
by Bronwyn Barter
Reviewed by Gunnel Minett

My Partner Is Depressed, What Can I Do? by Bronwyn Barter (2017). New York, NY: Strategic Book Publishing. 168 pp. Paperback £11.73. Available from

Just Part of Biology

When someone breaks a leg, we do not hesitate to take the person to see a doctor and get help, or the leg will not mend properly. But when the same person is depressed the solution is less clear. Somehow the psychological problem is not considered as straightforward as the physical problem. Rather, there is often stigma attached to psychological ailments, where they are seen as self-inflicted and/or as a weakness that we should hide from others. Such negative attitudes can make the problem worse and are far-removed from the reality—that depression needs proper attention just as much as a broken leg.

We need food and water to grow a healthy body, and we need attention from others to grow a healthy self. To ensure that these needs are met, we are equipped from birth via the genetic blueprint to expect a certain level of care in our environment. When our needs are met we react with positive emotions. If not, we react the opposite way. When negative emotions get out of balance they may turn into more permanent sadness, or depression. It is as simple as that. So we might say that depression is just another way of safeguarding our existence on this earth in the best possible way.

This is what this book is all about: to explain why we get depressed, what we can do to help ourselves, and in particular how we can help others to come out of their depression. The tone of the book is reassuringly down to earth, showing that there is no need to panic. It simply describes what causes depression and what helps the recovery from it. The language is clear, in a way that makes it accessible to someone experiencing depression and consequently in itself also offers help. My Partner Is Depressed, What Can I Do? shows how we can help ourselves and others to come out of depression and return from the dark hole of depression to a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Barter lists a number of reasons why a person may get depressed, such as childhood problems, poor relationships, and other negative aspects of life that many of us are likely to experience at some point in our lives. She also points to the fact that not all depression is the same. Grief, for instance, may be experienced as a period of intense depression, but this is nature’s way of handling the effects of a separation, and the depression will usually disappear by itself once the time is right.

This is something we seem to forget with our modern-day expectations of having everything perfect. It is becoming more and more common to be prescribed antidepressants when we are grieving rather than get the emotional support we really need. Another and even more disturbing fact is the growing tendency to prescribe antidepressants to children. Yet, as Barter rightly points out, antidepressants are not a cure! All they do is remove the symptoms, which just makes it harder to help the person to recovery.

Understanding depression is probably the best way to help someone back to a better life. This is why My Partner Is Depressed, What Can I Do? is so important. In my view the book should be handed out to parents and at doctor’s surgeries and, indeed, anywhere that our understanding of what depression is, and what we can do to help, needs to improve. And why not include it in the first aid kit we all keep somewhere, just in case life takes a turn for the worse?

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