We are working with Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust as the North London Mental Health Partnership.


Mental Health problems can have a very big effect on relationships. There are a lot of ways in which people close to you can be affected.

We know from research that people who are on their own and don’t have much support are more vulnerable to depression than others. Also bereavement, divorce or conflict with a loved one can be the spark that sets depression off. Being depressed, however, can also have a significant effect on the way you interact with the people around you.

When you are depressed it’s very hard to keep up relationships. This is particularly true when there have been conflicts in the past. If you have never got on particularly well with your family or found it hard to make friends then this may get worse during depression. If there are conflicts from years ago on your mind then you may ponder over them. If you were the victim of abuse you may be feeling very angry and mistrustful. The result of this kind of problem is that the depressed person can become increasingly isolated and cut off from the outside world.

The people who live with, or are close to, a person with a mental health condition may try to take on the tasks or responsibilities of their friend or relative. As a result, they may become overburdened and have less time and energy for socialising. Children can try to take on the responsibilities of their parents and look after their younger brothers or sisters. When the depressed person notices this they may begin to feel guilty and consequently this may make them feel worse.

How to improve your relationships

Reduce expectations of yourself and other people. You cannot expect to feel as loving, close, intimate or sexy towards others when you are depressed.
Don’t try to change other people. It will only lead to frustration and the emphasis needs to be on looking after yourself.

Be fair to yourself and to others. Don’t make demands on yourself or on others that are too great. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep just to “keep the peace”. This usually doesn’t work.
Don’t become isolated or cut yourself off from people who care about you. Explain that you are depressed and that you cannot be as responsive as you would like to be but that doesn’t mean you don’t care. However, if there is someone around whom you always find upsetting or argumentative then it is usually best to avoid them while you are depressed.

Listen to others and give them time to talk about themselves. This may seem very hard when you are feeling low yourself but it may pay dividends. People appreciate being listened to and it will also take you out of yourself and will help to break the cycle of depressive thoughts you have been experiencing.

Support from other people can come in a variety of ways. There is emotional support from being able to share your problems with someone but there is also value in simply doing something with someone else. Even simple things like watching a TV programme with someone, however brief that may be, can help to break the isolation that can be common in depression.

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