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Supporting a partner with their mental health: Rachel’s tips

Rachel, 21, shares her tips on how to support a partner who has mental health issues.

Content Warning

This page has discussion of mental illness.

Note: It’s important to remember that even if you don’t have mental health problems such as anxiety or depression etc. EVERYONE can have poor mental health days. This is a completely normal part of being a human and nothing to be ashamed of.

As someone who has/does suffer from poor mental health I know that being in a relationship with someone who suffers from a mental health problem can be sometimes be a bit of a struggle. At times it may seem like your partner is very distant from you or they’re blocking you out of their life. Communication can become difficult and sexual intimacy may become less frequent.

You may feel yourself getting frustrated with your partner. However, there are things you can do to help your partner through their poor mental health. I’ve put together a brief list of things I personally think are brilliant for supporting your partner:

Make sure you partner doesn’t feel like a nuisance

This is for me the most important. I used to suffer from severe hypochondria (health related anxiety) and was constantly worrying about my health. Due to my uncontrollable worrying about my health I was constantly asking my partner for reassurance. This is a common feature too for anyone with an anxiety related mental health condition. To have a partner constantly seeking reassurance may be a little draining and annoying.

However, the best way to support them is to treat them with kindness and patience.

Don’t make them feel silly or a nuisance for seeking reassurance. Listen to their worries calmly and try not to make negative comments like ‘you’re overreacting’, ‘just stop worrying’ or ‘cheer up’, as this could make your partner feel worse. A calm listener and warm hug goes a long way for someone suffering with anxiety.

Don’t pressure them for sexual intimacy

If your partner is experiencing poor mental health, then sexual intimacy is probably one of the last things on their mind. This can have an impact on you and your partner’s sex life.

It’s important not to push or pressure your partner into sexual intimacy, especially if they have asked for space or alone time while they try to sort out their mental health.

Remember the best kind of sexual intimacy is where both sexual partners are really into it. Try not to make your partner feel guilty if they have said that they’re not in the mood for sexual intimacy.

Don’t try and solve their mental health problems

This is a tricky one. When we see someone we care about suffering it’s natural to want to help that person. However, there is a fine line between supporting someone with mental health problems and then trying to fix their problems yourself. For example: if your partner asks you if you think receiving counselling for their mental health is a good idea you can be encouraging. Yet, don’t analyse your partner and tell them why you think they have poor mental health.

Supporting a partner’s mental health can be tough, but if you remain open, non-judgemental, and willing to listen to your partner you can be sure to be fully supportive.

It’s OK not to be OK

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (NHS England, 2020).

If you are worried about your mental health, or about someone else’s, there are lots of places that can offer you help and support. You don’t have to be diagnosed, you don’t even have to know exactly what’s wrong. Whenever you are ready to talk to someone, you can.

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