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One of my male characters is going through severe depression that will last about six months. Despite this, he clearly tries to make sure that his depression does not impede his life or relationship.

As a South Asian Man, in a modern context, he tries really hard despite crying, trouble sleeping or feeling moody at random intervals on his home. But he can't seem to properly overcome it for a long time.

How would I show that his romantic and sexual partner (a Jewish woman) still deeply cares and loves him despite this issue?

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    How does she express her love and care for him before he falls into depression? That feels like the obvious place to start.
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 10, 2022 at 11:56

2 Answers 2

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This is a broad question (too broad?) so I can only offer a partial answer. I'll focus on this part:

his romantic and sexual partner (a Jewish woman)

What you should not do

Don't rely on stereotypes (here's a nice primer - Jewish Gender Stereotypes in the United States):

  • Don't have her cook him chicken soup
  • Don't have her act like a nag or be too domineering (like a Jewish Mother)
  • Don't have her act spoiled, or high-maintenance (like a Jewish American Princess)

While these behaviors may, in actuality, be shown by real Jewish women, the fact that they've become stereotypes means you need to tread around them very lightly. Don't lean on a stereotype as if it's a solid foundation for a character. Consider including these traits only if you have something to say about them, if you can comment on where they come from, or offer a more nuanced and interesting perspective than what we usually see. If you can't, leave them out.

What you should do

First, consider the fact that there are Jewish women and there are Jewish women. If you describe a character only using those two words, it's likely that the image in the reader's mind will be an Ashkenazi (i.e. not North Africa, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian), will be middle or upper-middle class (i.e. will not have recently immigrated from a Bukharan village), will be Reform, Conservative, or non-practicing (i.e. not Orthodox, or Hasidic).

Much of the rest of this answer will apply to Ashkenazi, non-Orthdox Jews. If your character doesn't belong to this group, she might have the opposite traits.

Second, look at reliable data to get a sense of what kind of background or environment your character might have come from.

A 1992 study and another from 2012 suggest that American Jews are more likely than White non-Jews (and often considerably higher than Americans of other races) to have a positive opinion of psychotherapy. American Jews are somewhat more likely to have been diagnosed with mental illnesses, including depression. (You should also check out this summary of those and a number of other studies: Judaism and Mental Illness)

Probably due to this familiarity with mental illness, and also because of the contribution of Jews to the field of psychotherapy (many notable psychotherapists, including, most notably Freud, were Jewish) American Jews may be more likely to seek therapy for mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association notes that:

Jews may be more accustomed to seeking psychoanalysis or psychotherapy and therefore bypass needed psychiatric evaluations to identify possible medical/organic contributors to psychiatric symptoms.

Stress & Trauma Toolkit for Treating Jewish Americans in a Changing Political and Social Environment

These facts point to a number of possible interesting reactions for your Jewish character:

It's not unlikely that someone in her family has been treated for depression. Maybe this means that she is understanding; she encourages him to get help and knows how to assist in the treatment and be supportive. On the other hand, perhaps her experience with a depressed family member caused some trauma, and so she reacts very harshly, insisting that her partner seek treatment immediately, or she'll leave.

Given what the APA noted, maybe she's quicker to assume her partner is depressed than other characters are. On the other hand, perhaps when she was a child, her parents rushed to the conclusion that she needed therapy and she came to resent this kind of knee-jerk reaction. Perhaps she doesn't believe her partner is really depressed and thinks they can deal with the situation without getting help.

The inclusion of diverse characters in your writing should be an opportunity to explore diverse experiences, opinions and behaviors; it should not be used as an opportunity to fall back on lazy stereotypes.

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  • I think this is an amazing answer, considering the thinnest of character descriptions.
    – wetcircuit
    Aug 10, 2022 at 18:01
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Depending on the limitations and reasons for the story, different approaches come up.

To provide care and try to help directly rarely happens contrary to what one might assume, thats's because daily struggles and area of influence in relationships usually bound by other factors or people. It would be realistic however to have this women decide on observing the man first, helping him without knowing and trying to talk about it only at the end of the stage, to help this depressed man means figure out why he's depressed.

Since you are curious about details, it can be a change in relationships of this women, gaining more income, taking responsibility, challenging the norms or make sacrifices with her pleasure or goals, in order to fulfill his wishes or eliminate his pain.

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