How to help your partner if they're suffering from a mental health issue
Mental health is a delicate subject. Team that up with it affecting your partner and it can become a tough pill to swallow. Not only are mental health issues extremely difficult for the person in the thick of it – it can become equally taxing for partners, too. Mood changes, temper outbursts, difficulties or irregularities with sleep, changes in appetite, nightmares, weight gain or loss, and the overall lack of motivation to do anything can all be signs that your partner may be suffering from a mental illness.
Talking about these signs or mental health issues isn’t an easy task. It's extremely difficult to find the right thing to say, when to say it, and what to do with this informational exchange, particularly if it's with your partner or loved one. If you think your partner might be suffering from a mental health issue, here are some ways to help.
Talk to them
This might not be easy and can be an incredibly hard topic to address for both you and your partner, however, it can definitely be done. Remember that talking also involves a high degree of listening; make sure you have the conversation in a safe environment and keep the dialogue open. Avoid using “you” language, which can often come across as “blaming" language and can make your partner or loved one feel isolated and alone in their journey. Instead, offer compassion and an open mind free of judgement, and try to understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes. During this conversation let your partner know you support his or her journey and explore avenues of help such as online therapy sessions that can be available to them in their own time via lysn, Lifeline (13 11 24) or Beyond Blue.
Choose your timing
It is important to choose timing wisely when discussing your partner’s mental health with them. Do not bring it up during or straight after an argument or when either of you are emotionally charged.Choose a time when you’re both seemingly calm and can have an open conversation without any anger or frustration already involved. And always remember, although bedtime seems like a great opportunity to open heavy conversations, this isn’t the time nor the place. Ensure you are both as rested as possible and present. Talk about it when you both have time, are available emotionally and don't have a lot stress on your plates.
Look after yourself
Often when we deal with our partners issues, it can be very easy to take on their emotional condition. It is extremely important to look after yourself so you don't burn out. Emotions can be transferable so try to maintain your normal level of emotion, stay calm, and engage in self-care. Make sure you set some time aside just for yourself through this difficult time and use your support system. Remember, we can’t pour from empty cups so rest and relaxation for you is equally important.
Be aware of the options
When talking to your partner about what they are going through, make sure you have reliable information that can support them. Whatever the issue, be sure to let them know that there are many options that can support them through their journey. They do not need to suffer in silence or without any help. Offer some support suggestions such as seeing a psychologist or partaking in activities that might help to improve their mood such as exercise. It is important to let them know that there are experts as well as social supports available to help them through their issue.
Seek out the expert advice
Even if your partner doesn’t feel ready to talk to someone, do your own research around things that could potentially help them. Expert advice can also help you in coping with the situation and provide you both with healthier alternatives to get through this trying time. Assist your partner to seek help from their GP to get a referral to a psychologist that could be the right fit for them. It’s important to be aware that experts are equipped to deal with these issues and to not try to take on all the responsibilities yourself. A professional can provide a fresh perspective without emotional baggage, which can be quite valuable. The aim is for you to support your partner and not try to fix them.