Having a partner with mental health problems can be extremely stressful for a relationship and your wellbeing. Being a support system to your partner while they are struggling with mental health issues can be difficult and is often a time where it’s important to tread sensitively with your words, actions, and mindset. Below we have put together five ways that you can help to support your partner’s mental health and support their path to recovery.
When you discover that your partner is struggling with their mental health, or if you suspect that this may be the case, it is important to educate yourself before jumping to any conclusions. Many mental health conditions present similar symptoms but are still quite different. For example, anxiety may be masking a high-functioning depression. Symptoms can also vary from person to person, and often vary between males and females. For example, depression in women is more than twice as likely as it in men. This is why it is so important to educate yourself on what mental health issues can look like from person to person.
Listen to them without trying to change their mind
If your partner does make statements or conversation with you about their feelings, it is important to not dismiss them. Making insensitive comments such as “cheer up” can often lead them to further close off and not want to discuss the matter. You should also not try to change their feelings or make it your job to make them feel better. This is an impossible task and one that only they can do through effective treatment of the condition. It is better to just listen and let them know that you are hearing what they are saying and that you are there for them. It is also respectful to thank them for sharing their feelings with you, as it is an extremely personal and positive step.
Encourage them to seek treatment if necessary
Encouraging someone to seek treatment can be extremely difficult if they are not open to it or are in denial of their illness. Unfortunately, you cannot make someone seek treatment if they are not ready for it, and often trying to do this will only make them more withdrawn and put a strain on your relationship. It is better to discuss options with them and let them know that you will support them when they are ready to take this step. It can also be helpful to share informational articles, self-help books, forums, and groups that might offer your partner an opportunity to see how others have moved forward from the same position.
Be supportive of positive changes
When your partner does make changes in the right direction, it is important to recognize and praise this effort, no matter how small the achievement might be. You can also show your support more literally in the case of lifestyle changes. For example, if your partner has begun exercising more to treat their mental health, you could ask to join them and make it a positive activity together. Having a support system can make all of the difference.
Look after yourself, too
Finally, whilst you are supporting your partner’s mental health journey, it is important not to neglect your own mental health. It is easy to stumble yourself when taking on the needs of others, so it is important that you set boundaries for yourself and remember that you cannot fix everything for them. Make sure to practice your own self-care, too.
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