How to support your partner's mental health

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Claudia Brooks, 3rd year Film and Theatre

When you're in a relationship, being able to support each other's mental health can be a difficult and rewarding task. It is necessary to understand, care and support one another. Here are some tips in order to foster a positive relationship.

You’ve done it – you’re in a relationship. Fantastic news!

However, the longer it goes on, the sooner the honeymoon phase starts to dwindle, and you know it won’t be long until they discover your secret: you’ve got an illness that isn’t always visible to the naked eye. Rest assured, you are not the first person with a form of mental issue to be in a relationship and you certainly won’t be the last.

Mental health issues have clearly become less taboo in recent years – perhaps due to numerous studies dealing with such a topic. It was only a few years ago that the National Survey on Drug Use And Mental Health found that 20 per cent of adults suffer from a type of mental illness. To put that into perspective, it had risen by 18.1 per cent from a survey taken a few years prior. The same drastic figures can be applied to different age groups as the number of children and teenagers admitted to hospital over suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues has doubled in the past decade.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health found that 20 per cent of adults suffer from a type of mental illness.

Figures also show that depression and anxiety have soared by an astonishing 70 per cent in the past 25 years. Clearly, an epidemic of sorts is amongst us and when you’re in a relationship, where you’re completely infatuated with somebody. What can you do to help your partner who deals with this type of mental and emotional distress on a daily-basis?

I’ve compiled some key things to bear in mind when your partner has revealed their suffering to you. The important thing to remember is that no mental illness is unbeatable and the support you offer could really save their life.

DO – Hear them out and ask questions

Literally the easiest one out of the lot – just listen to what your partner has to say. If they are opening up to you about what they are going through, you’ve gotten through the toughest bit. It took me just under two years to fully express myself to my boyfriend and I thank God I did otherwise, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him just staying quiet and letting me exasperate. If you are confused about certain things and you’re comfortable enough in your relationship to do so, ask questions! Whether it be related to the symptoms, emotions or treatment, the more questions you ask, the better as it really shows your interest in their well-being and depending on your partner, may make them realise that somebody does care.

Just listen to what your partner has to say.

DON’T – Tell them to “forget about it” and “shrug it off”

If you’ve even contemplated saying this, just don’t. It’s not your fault – it’s a natural thing to consider saying if you’re ignorant of the emotions mental illnesses can cause. Would you tell somebody with cancer to forget about it? Perhaps some may find this comparison illogical and farcical, however depression has been cited as the second greatest cause of death in the Western world after heart disease, according to figures from the World Health Organisation. Focusing back to the point in question – telling somebody to shake off their feelings brings complete isolation as the sufferer is led to believe that nobody will ever understand the pain they are dealing with since the person they love and care about most seems to dismiss their illness for just 'a bad few days'.

DO – Be a team, be supportive

The fact somebody, who doesn’t necessarily have any responsibility for you or anything you do, chooses to battle through one of the most difficult things you could face up to (i.e. your brain) has got to be the most reassuring aspect of confronting such problems. The support offered can really make a difference and can often impact the thoughts which the sufferer has. I’ve come to notice that any suicidal or anxious thoughts cease, and some sort of alleviation follows as a new-found sense of hope settles in at the fact I don’t have to suffer in silence. The adage 'a problem shared is a problem halved' applies in this context as nothing seems as daunting when facing it together. Suffice to say, when a partner is unable to succour their mentally-ill girlfriend/boyfriend, the relationship is inevitably doomed. This comes from personal experience as a short-lived romance of mine ended when the boy in question mentioned that if I was to self-harm or become depressed, he would leave me as he hasn’t got time for that. What a jerk.

The adage 'a problem shared is a problem halved' applies in this context as nothing seems as daunting when facing it together.

via GIPHY

DON’T – tell them that it could be worse

It is probably true that somewhere across the world, or even within the same country, somebody has got it worse off. We are aware that somebody else, be it across the world or in the same country is probably going through something terrible. But who are you to determine what’s worse than living trapped inside your own head? Thoughts whistling around, not being able to escape? Evidently, there are certain things in life some may consider worse than mental illness, but the worst possible thing to hear from your partner is how negligible your problems are compared to somebody else’s.

Hopefully this article has helped shed a light of hope for those lost within their struggles or of those of their partner. Loving someone with a mental illness can be heart-wrenching as you witness their constant struggle. However, with your loving support, your partner will have a real chance at persevering through their emotional distress and furthering this, you will both forge a more understanding and intimate relationship.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Freestocks


If you got any tips on how to support your partner, comment below or get in touch!

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