Does your husband seem distant or irritable? Is he working too hard, or drinking too much? If so, he may be suffering from depression. But most men aren't comfortable sharing their inner pain, and many don't know how to put their feelings into words. Men are also more socially isolated than most women.

So your husband could use your help to overcome depression and gain a healthy life. Here's how you can understand his depression and encourage him to find healing:

• Recognize the symptoms. Know that men express their depression differently than women do. Look for these signs in your husband: irritability, hostility, acting out, aggressiveness, low impulse control, anger when hurt, tendency to blame others, unforgiving, a need to maintain control, a fear of confronting perceived weakness, a higher willingness to take risks, behavior on the verge of social or legal standards, substance abuse/addiction (alcohol, cigarettes, etc.), other types of addiction (to work, television, sex, sports, gambling, etc.) shame about feeling blue, withdrawal into silence, fatigue, and general dissatisfaction with himself and his behavior.

• Commit to helping him in a healthy way. Remember that it's not your job to fix or rescue your husband - only God can do that. However, you can encourage and support him along the path toward healing. Don't challenge him or shame him about his depression. Instead, let him know lovingly that you know something is wrong and that you genuinely want to help him find solutions to his problems. Make sure your husband understands that you're his ally. Assure him that you won't violate his boundaries while you try to help out. If he becomes defensive, consistently and calmly remind him that the problem won't just go away and needs to be confronted. Help him recognize his own hurt and motivate him to do something about it.

• Follow the "Seven Cs Plan." Encourage your husband to be courageous about facing his depression head-on. Talk in ways designed to help him listen to you effectively by following the "Seven Cs Plan":

Calm -- Don't yell, shame, or lecture. Be calm when you speak
Clarity -- Carefully consider what you want to say before you speak, so you can clearly present your ideas to him.
Conciseness -- Give your husband the facts in a succinct manner.
Conviction -- Let your confidence that he should and can overcome depression show when you speak to him.
Consistency -- Give your husband the same message on a regular basis.
Conciliation -- Assure your husband that you're working for healing, not destruction. Tell him you don't want a divorce, and that, because you love him, your goal is to help him heal.
Consequences -- If your husband refuses to listen, insist on a consequence in your relationship - including a temporary separation in extreme cases.

Strive to help your husband take responsibility for his behavior, tune into his feelings and learn how to label them. Explore how he might think and behave differently, and practice managing his anger and defensiveness and keeping an open mind.

• Help him discover the reasons behind his depression. Work with your husband to figure out what's not working well in his life that's causing him to feel sorrow or grief. Consider such issues as unresolved wounds from his childhood, social isolation, the loss of a dream, or overwhelming stress.

Help your husband separate dysfunctional thinking from clear, biblical thinking. Encourage your husband to look at things from God's perspective, trusting that he can emerge a stronger person from any type of trial or tragedy. Help him find the words to describe his pain. Watch for windows of opportunity to discuss his feelings on a regular basis. Urge him to pursue professional counseling to work through issues that are troubling him.