8 Ways to Support Your Partner When They’re Experiencing Mental Health Issues

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Let’s be real for a minute. Life is tough these days. Housing prices are skyrocketing, the job market is wonky, and there’s a deadly virus still hanging around. With so much on our minds, the rise in mental health issues shouldn’t be a surprise.

Since 2020, doctors have reported an increase in calls about mental health needs. Even if you’re feeling OK, your partner might be struggling. If that’s the case, you may be at a loss over what to do. Don’t worry — you don’t have to be a professional to offer some help. Try these tips below to give your partner the support they need.

1. Acknowledge Their Problems

Sure, it’s easier to pretend you don’t see your partner sleeping more, eating less, or spending more time alone. Ignoring the issues isn’t going to help anyone, though. If your partner is sliding into a mental health rut, stay engaged. 

Gently reach out and ask how they’re feeling. Let them know you’re concerned and want to support them in ways they find helpful. The most important thing is to make sure your partner doesn’t feel like they’re alone. 

2. Kindly Suggest Treatment

You’re not a doctor, so avoid giving specific advice on what your partner should do. You could be wrong, and your partner will likely find it unhelpful. Instead, suggest they reach out to a professional. Their issues may require medication, so recommend they talk with a health care provider about mental health treatment. A medical professional can evaluate their symptoms and medical history to determine whether prescription medication is needed.

Keep in mind that treatment for mental health issues isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Your partner’s needs will be unique, so it may take time to find the right plan. If they want to talk through what they’re feeling, be there to listen. Remember, though, you’re not the professional, so don’t hesitate to gently suggest they find a good therapist.

3. Don’t Push Positivity

Yes, focusing on the bright side and thinking positive thoughts is a great way to lift your spirits. For someone who’s experiencing a mental health struggle, though, it may not be possible. Repeatedly pushing them to “not be negative” or “stay positive” can make things worse.

Encouraging them to see things from a glass-half-full perspective may seem like the right thing to do. However, it could push them to feel ashamed and cause them to isolate themselves from you and others. Don’t make your partner feel like they must hide their feelings. Instead, concentrate on creating a safe space where they can share their feelings without judgment. 

4. Ask What They Need

Just to double down — everyone’s mental health needs are different. What might make you feel better won’t necessarily work for your partner. So don’t make assumptions about what they need from you. Find out for sure by asking them. 

Maybe they would like you to bring them coffee while they sit alone for an hour every morning. Or perhaps they want to take an evening stroll or drive together every day. Respect those needs and fulfill them the best you can. You may find supporting your partner this way makes your bond even stronger.

5. Validate and Empathize with Their Feelings

Unfortunately, mental health struggles still carry a stigma. Your partner might feel like they’re broken or something is wrong with them. You can help erase that notion by validating their emotions. Let them know you recognize what they’re dealing with and that it’s understandable. 

Go one step further. Don’t just say the words, make yourself open to feeling their emotions, too. Put yourself in their shoes. Doing that gives you a better understanding of what they’re going through so you can better support them. 

6. Open Up

Alongside feeling alone, your partner may also think no one else has ever experienced the same problems. That’s not the case, and they need to hear it. If you’ve faced mental health struggles before, open up and share. It can help normalize what your partner is going through.

Remember, it’s your partner who is hurting now. So be careful not to make the conversation all about you. Nevertheless, share what you went through and how you felt. Knowing you’ve experienced something similar may make it easier for your partner to be vulnerable with you.

7. Plan Something Fun

Overall mental health struggles can suck the joy out of a room. Even if your partner loves nature hikes or video games, they may resist those activities now. That doesn’t mean you can’t suggest them. If they push back hard, though, don’t force the issue.

If they’re open to it, make some fun plans. Doing something they’ve always enjoyed might help redirect their mood. Spend an afternoon walking through the woods. Chase ghosts in old-school Pac-Man. You may find that low-key fun can be a welcome distraction. 

8. Resist Giving Ultimatums

Ultimatums are never a good strategy in a relationship no matter what the situation. Threatening to leave if your partner doesn’t change their behavior is a toxic tactic. It’s a bad idea if you’re trying to push them to quit smoking. But it’s worse if you’re trying to force them out of a mental health slump.

Telling your partner that you’re gone if they don’t “turn their frown upside down” won’t have a positive effect. It will only push them away further and break any trust that existed between you. It could also create fears of abandonment. Focus on being supportive and present instead.

No relationship is perfect. You’re going to experience rough times with every partnership. Facing mental health struggles together is challenging. If you commit to being there for your partner, though, you can help pull them through to happier times. 

Opinions expressed by New York Wire contributors are their own.

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