The topic of mental health is increasingly being addressed in a much more open way these days. Celebrities, top athletes, podcasters, and many others whose lives are often in the limelight have found a certain liberation in being able to share their personal struggles.
What I really appreciate about this is that it’s helping to foster greater acceptance and acknowledgement that conditions like anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, and others can pretty much affect anyone, regardless of status.
While symptoms often develop during childhood and adolescence, some people start experiencing them during adulthood. And this can be very confusing when one of them is your spouse or partner. You can sense something’s going on but can’t quite put your finger on it. Perhaps they’ve become moodier, withdrawn, worried and anxious, exhausted, preoccupied, or somehow different. And, you don’t know what to do so you don’t really do or say anything, hoping things will change.
5 Ways to Help a Partner Struggling with Mental Health Issues
A lot of people feel uncomfortable or awkward because they aren’t sure how to help a partner who is dealing with some type of mental health problem. However, by using strategies like the 5 below, it might be easier than you think to make a positive difference for them.
- Address It.
Find the right time—without distractions—to talk with your partner about what’s going on, but do it with compassion, not out of frustration. For example, blurting out, “What’s wrong with you?” isn’t likely to help the situation and will make your partner feel worse. Instead, be kind but direct, letting them know what you’re observing and that you’re concerned. It’s okay to ask how they’re feeling, what’s been going on for them, and so on. Some may be more reticent than others to articulate how they feel, but that’s okay. Whatever they are willing to share, hear what is said and validate their feelings, so they know you’re listening and not judging them.
- Ask How You Can Best Support Them.
Everyone dealing with mental health issues will respond to them a little differently. While one person might want to talk about it a lot, another may not; they may need more privacy with their thoughts or time to work through whatever is going on. So ask for clarification about what you can do to help them feel supported.
- Keep Your Connection Going.
It’s also okay to suggest activities you both enjoy and can do together to help keep the two of you connected. Despite mental health issues, it’s important to maintain your bond as a couple. This will help both of you feel better.
- Encourage Them to Get the Help They Need.
Whether your partner’s symptoms can be best addressed by talking with a licensed mental health professional or are serious enough to require medication, encouraging them to reach out for help can make a big difference. Although you can’t force the issue, it can be useful to do some research on the benefits of treatment to share with them.
- Don’t Forget About Self-Care.
Just like when a spouse or partner has a physical illness, a person struggling with mental health issues may not be carrying their weight when it comes to the household, leaving you with the lion’s share of responsibilities—albeit temporarily. Taking care of yourself is important so you can stay strong. Be sure you regularly schedule time to do enjoyable things for yourself, such as:
- Spending time with friends
- Getting a massage or other spa treatment
- Exercising regularly
- Going outside for walks or hikes
- Eating healthfully
There’s no question that helping someone with mental health problems can be stressful and draining. But it’s important to know that people can overcome their symptoms, and this is especially possible when they have the support of a loving partner who cares deeply about their recovery and well-being.
For more inspiration, order my newest book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.
If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.