From personal experience both as the sufferer and talking to others, I find this the best way. It gives me the chance to open up if I feel I need to - equally, it gives someone else the chance to open up if they feel they need to.
It definitely sounds as though you’re working along the right lines in terms of supporting your ex and I do love your idea about the mental health scrapbook. If the conversation heads down the road of her mental health then it’s worth bringing up, just as an idea and whether it’s something that she might find useful.
Over my five and a half years (I think that’s how long it is…) I’ve found that people sympathetically listening and not judging me, or trying to act as an amateur therapist by challenging my thoughts, or irrational mind mazes are of huge value to me. I don’t want or expect anyone to think they have to provide the silver bullet to fix me, but just to quietly listen to the incoherent vomit of thoughts that are swirling around my head.
It’s a rare thing to be able to pull off, particularly when you care about someone’s wellbeing and just want to be able to make everything okay again. So much well intentioned advice can often exacerbate the situation - exercise is a really good example - I get that one quite often, and I know from experience the benefits of getting out and being active. But, when I’m in a depressive funk and actually getting out of bed feels like an insurmountable obstacle and literally takes every ounce of energy I have, there isn’t a chance that I’m going to have the energy to get out of the house and go for a long walk or run. For that to happen, I need to have some clarity of mind.
As I say, it sounds as though you’re on the right lines with your support - allow her to guide the depth of the conversation around her depression, try not to pressure her or overtly sit there and say… “So, your mental health… how is it?” Not that I think you would, but a simple and genuine “How are you doing?” could just be the open door that she needs.
Just wanna say as well, I think coming in here and asking advice is a really good idea on your part too.
I hope she is able to get well soon - she is lucky to have someone like you as a support network - and if you need more support yourself, we’re all here for you. It can sometimes feel like a thankless task supporting someone with severe depression because it is so all-encompassing for the one suffering - but again, from personal experience, knowing someone out there cares is a comfort that often can’t be put into words.