Experiencing mental health illness can be very hard on a relationship. It can feel like you are falling into a pattern where managing the symptoms and effects of the illness becomes what your relationship is centered around. When we love someone, we want to support them and care for them in any way that we can, but it can be difficult to know what is the right thing to do or say when it comes to a partner’s mental health. Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with their mental health does not mean that the relationship will not work. There may be more challenges to face, but there are some ways to help overcome these.
Ways to Support a Partner’s Mental Health
In any relationship, communication is vital. Talking about how each other is feeling, worrying about, needing etc are all needed in any relationship to help it be successful. Particularly when it comes to mental health, you need to make sure channels are open for you both to talk freely. It isn’t just about talking, communication is also about actively listening to your partner and engaging with them when they are opening up. Be the safe place that your partner can turn to when they are struggling. Don’t dismiss their feelings, but instead offer hope that a new day will be better.
2 Seek Help
If your partner is struggling with their mental health, it is vital that you encourage them to seek the help that they need. Just trying to work through it together and hoping it will go away is not an effective solution. They may be scared or worried or even embarrassed about seeking professional help but you need to encourage them to understand that it is necessary. It may be good for you, your partner and your relationship to get help as a couple. Therapy together would allow you to talk and understand what are appropriate expectations and healthy boundaries for living with someone who has a mental illness.
3 Don’t Take it Personally
This is a really hard one to try and put into practice. Mental illness is not personal, and as your partner goes through the many ups and downs they will face this will be distressing for you to experience. Don’t allow yourselves to fall into a place where you are blaming each other. It isn’t your fault your partner is struggling, but it also isn’t theirs either. As you are the closest person to your partner, a lot of their anger or frustration will come out towards you. Try to stay calm and be understanding, and talk to them about how it made you feel when things are calmer.
4 Get Educated
A good idea would be for you to educate yourself on living with mental illness. There are many different mental health disorders and you may not be fully aware of what your partner is suffering with. Ensure that your information comes from credible sources and is based on true facts. Look at mental health organisations or charities and the information they have. Also, learn about the signs and symptoms of what your partner is diagnosed with, this will help you to spot when they are having a particularly tough time.
5 Practice Self-care
Supporting and looking after someone who is suffering from a mental health disorder can become time-consuming and feel draining at times. To be the best support you can for them, make sure you take time out for yourself. You will not be able to help someone if you are not looking after yourself. Ensure you get enough sleep and regular physical activity. You could take time out to have a bath, read a book or practice mindfulness. Make sure you continue with your hobbies and maybe call on a friend or family member to help when you need a break.
6 Tell Them You Love Them
It is important for your partner to know that you do not think less of them because they are struggling with their mental health. Depression and anxiety can be lonely places, and knowing that they have someone there who loves and supports them is very important. They may not believe you or respond, but they do hear you, and having someone there will be a big help in their recovery.
All clinicians at Oxford CBT are Cognitive Behavioural Therapists or Psychologists, offering evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.