Q&A with Jane Dodding: I think my FIFO husband might be suffering from depression

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By psychologist Jane Dodding

Q: My husband has worked FIFO for a number of years and we have young children. Lately my husband has become distant, given up alcohol, but won't communicate or talk to anyone. He seems depressed and is isolating himself at home and work. He also says he doesn't love me anymore and doesn't like coming home to reality, family, noise etc. I'm really concerned about him but he says he won't see a counsellor. I'm at a loss what to do or try. Any suggestions please?

A: It is difficult to watch someone you love become unhappy and withdrawn, it brings up so many mixed thoughts and emotions. It can be helpful to remember that one thing we can rely on is that everything changes. It is also important that you acknowledge the strain this has on you and therefore take particular care to look after yourself too. I am pleased you are seeking support to manage this stressful situation.

I understand you are concerned that your husband may be experiencing depression and he has indicated that he doesn’t want to seek counselling. Beyond Blue has some good resources and fact sheets. In particular, it might be worth looking at the symptoms of depression with your husband or direct him to it.  This may help to clarify whether there is a need to get professional help or not, and if necessary encourage him to seek support, preferably earlier than later.

Many people are more familiar and comfortable seeing their GP initially. Your husband may agree to see his GP (even to put your mind at rest) who can assess him and provide support, treatment and referrals to other services if necessary.

Things you can do right now to support him (and you) are during this stressful time are:

  • Exercise (even something as light as walking the dog). Exercise is actually one of the best things known to help with depression
  • Get out in the sun light, particularly in the morning if you can
  • Establish a routine for meals, sleep, recreation etc.
  • Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep per night
  • Eat healthy meals

Although it can seem difficult, no-one can force your husband to seek support against his will, unless he is a danger to himself or others.

If you are concerned at all that your husband is at risk of suicide, you need to get help to him. An article I have written previously about suicide provides a list of crisis services (including a men’s helpline), a link to public emergency mental health services, and what to do in an emergency. Please see http://mindsplus.com.au/suicide-the-elephant-in-the-room

I hope this information is helpful and if you need any further support let me know.


To read other columns written by our psychologists, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career.

All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Jane Dodding is a psychologist and director with MindsPlus, a group of psychologists and other mental health workers who came together in 2007 to provide support to people living and working in rural and remote regions of Australia. For further information about MindsPlus, contact 1300 312 202 or visit www.mindsplus.com.au