Skip to the content

Admission Line 888-255-9280

How to Start a Discussion about Your Partner's Mental Health

Have you ever noticed your partner struggling with their mental health and felt unsure of how to talk about it? It can be difficult to bring up the subject of mental health with a loved one. After all, it may feel like you're prying into their private life, or it could bring up some uncomfortable feelings for both of you.

But talking openly and honestly about mental health is an important part of a healthy relationship. It is also extremely beneficial for you both. Communicating can help your other half feel supported and understood while giving you a better understanding of the situation. 

So how can you approach this very delicate topic? Here are some tips that can help you do that.

Understand The Diagnosis

The first step to discussing your partner's mental health is understanding their diagnosis. Learning about different mental illnesses, their symptoms, and treatments can help you better comprehend what they're going through. 

So, do your research. Talk to your partner's doctor or therapist, and read up on reputable websites such as the National Institute of Mental Health to get more information. Support groups and online forums can also be great resources to connect with others who might be going through a similar experience.

You can take note of the following items to get a better understanding of your partner's mental health:

  • The diagnosis and how it affects them
  • Common symptoms
  • The treatments they are taking and how it affects them
  • All possible remedies and therapies they might still try
  • How their condition might change over time
  • How you can respond to their symptoms
  • When to seek professional help or the red and green flags to watch out for
  • Ways you can show your support
  • The things to avoid that may make them feel worse

For example, suppose your partner has anxiety. In that case, you should be aware of the common symptoms such as panic attacks, difficulty concentrating, and constant worrying. Or if they are depressed, know that it's normal for them not to have much energy and to feel hopeless.

Learning the facts can help you better understand what your partner is going through before starting a conversation. In doing your research, however, remember that mental health is a spectrum. 

Not everyone with the same diagnosis will experience the same symptoms in the same ways. Furthermore, mental health looks different for everyone. In fact, age, gender, and lifestyle are only some factors that influence it. 

In addition, remind yourself not to take on the role of a psychologist. You are not meant to diagnose them or give advice. Rather, you want to offer your emotional support and learn about their condition so that you can better understand it.

Overall, understanding your partner's diagnosis helps you gain a better insight into their situation. Consequently, you become an educated ally in their fight against it.

Bonus Tip: Keep an eye out for signs of suicidal behavior. Warning signs include talking about wanting to die or feeling trapped, expressing feelings of hopelessness, withdrawing from activities, and preoccupation with death. If you see any of these in your partner, urge them to seek help immediately.

Remember to Continue to Work on Parts of Your Relationship Outside of the Mental Illness

Your relationship encompasses more than just your partner's condition. So, devote time to nurturing other aspects of your relationship, such as taking care of each other's needs and having fun together. Mental health can take up a lot of your time, but it's essential to remember not to let it consume your bond. 

It's also healthy to still make plans and have fun together. Even if your partner isn't feeling great, make sure to still do all the things you used to enjoy before their diagnosis to show them you care.

Take inspiration from these activities to help you come up with something creative:

  • Go on a picnic or take your dog for a walk
  • Have a cozy movie night
  • Play board games or video games together
  • Visit a cafe or craft shop
  • Go stargazing or explore a new area of your city
  • Try a new restaurant
  • Go shopping
  • Bake or cook together
  • Go for a drive
  • Exercise or meditate together
  • Do something outside the box

These activities can help you and your partner bond. But more importantly, they can aid you in maintaining a sense of normalcy and closeness in your relationship.

The benefits you'll reap from engaging in enjoyable activities together will be invaluable, too. You will learn to recognize and appreciate each other's needs while also providing each one with comfort and joy.

Likewise, you will have a better appreciation of each other as individuals. Doing these things together serves as a reminder that mental health is just a part of who they are. It can also alleviate some of the stress and pressure that comes with their psychological disease. 

So strive to reinvigorate your relationship to stay strong and motivated in your shared fight against mental illness. You two can form an even more powerful bond and understanding by being there for each other. 

Bonus Tip: Mental illness can take a toll on your partner's body, so prioritize their physical health. Encourage them to eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Also, remind them to take their medications as prescribed by their doctor for maximum efficiency.

Truly Listen to Their Concerns

Your partner might find themselves feeling overwhelmed or helpless from time to time. There may even be times when their illness stops them from doing what they want. 

It is at these moments that your listening skills are invaluable. You are there for support, not to judge or criticize. So it's significant that you practice active listening and really take the time to understand what they are feeling and going through.

Some of these phrases may help you initiate a meaningful discussion:

  • "What do you need right now?"
  • "What can I do to help?"
  • "It sounds like this has been especially hard for you. Tell me more."
  • "It sounds like you're feeling quite frustrated."
  • "I'm here for you."
  • "I understand how difficult this must be for you."
  • "I'm here to listen. Just let me know what I can do to help."

These phrases will show your partner that you truly listen and care about their feelings. They will also show that you are a good and dependable source of support.

Moreover, these conversations will create an open dialogue. You can both use it to understand each other better, help you learn more about the specifics of their situation, and what you can do to help them cope.

When listening to your partner, strive to be an active listener. Do more than just hear their concerns and then provide a solution. Steer away from giving advice or judging them, too. Rather, actively engage with them by creating an open atmosphere of communication where both of you can contribute to the conversation.

Maintain a compassionate and respectful tone when speaking with your other half. Do your best to stay attentive and focused and keep an open mind. Additionally, acknowledge and validate their feelings. Let the goal of creating a safe space for them to express themselves be your guide.

Ultimately, your job is to lend an ear and show that you are present to understand what they are going through. Reiterate that they are loved. Acknowledge their hardships and provide comfort in any way you can. Show them that they matter to you and that you care about their mental health and well-being.

By doing this, you can work to create a stronger bond and better understanding between you. In the end, you can get through any tough situation together through this kind of understanding and appreciation.

Bonus Tip: Emphasize to your partner that it's okay not to be okay or have a bad day. Mental illness can make it difficult for them to cope with life at times, so let them know it's all right to take a break and relax without feeling guilty. 

Help Them Get Professional Help

Sometimes a partner's mental illness can be too much for one person to handle. Their symptoms can interfere with their daily activities and life goals or even harm them. If this is the case, it will benefit both of you to seek professional help.

Consider this—National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness yearly. Only 1 in 25 receive the care they need, making mental illness 90% of the cause of suicides in the country.

On this note, getting your partner the help they need is detrimental. Therapy can be valuable for them. Medication can also be a viable option, depending on the severity of the situation. Not only can your partner learn new coping strategies and skills from a professional, but you can also gain the tools to support them better.

Talk to your partner and make sure they are comfortable with the idea of seeking out professional help. If they are, look for resources that will give you the support you need. 

Research and document all treatments and options available and their respective benefits, any mental health organizations, or support groups in your area. You can even go online to find different counseling services for individuals and couples.

The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends these websites to help people find mental health professionals and resources:

  • Mental Health America
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
  • National Center for PTSD
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)
  • National Sleep Foundation
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR)
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • The Arc: For People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

No matter what, make sure your partner feels supported and heard. Be there for them when they need you. Encourage them to pursue professional help or join them in their therapy sessions as an extra layer of support. With such intervention, you both can work towards overcoming difficult times.

Bonus Tip: If your partner is suicidal, don't leave them alone. Remove any means they might use to attempt suicide, such as weapons or medication. Take them to the hospital right away or call their doctor. 

Remember to Practice Self-Care

Finally, remember to take care of yourself as well. You can't pour from an empty cup. Caring for someone with a mental illness can be emotionally and mentally draining, so it's vital to ensure you are taking care of yourself, too.

Set aside time for self-care and practice activities that make you feel good. Exercise, meditate, spend time with friends and family, get plenty of rest—do anything that will help you relax and be at peace.

It's also meaningful to talk to others about your situation. Speak openly and honestly with someone whom you trust and can confide in. Doing so will give you a chance to vent and get valuable advice from someone who understands.

And if you want to talk to people going through the same things, join a support group or online forum for loved ones of those with mental illness. SAMHSA and Families Anonymous are great places to start. These resources can provide valuable information and support to help you cope with the situation.

At the end of the day, know that you are not alone and that help is available for you and your partner. The more knowledge, understanding, and self-care you receive and give yourself, the better equipped you will be to handle any tough situation that comes your way.

Bonus Tip: Breathing techniques can help you manage any stress or tension. Try the four-square breath technique: Breathe in deeply and slowly for 4 seconds, hold the air for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and pause for 4 seconds. This technique can help you remain focused and calm. 

Offer Help Today

Initiating a discussion about mental illness with a partner can be tricky. Still, it's an important step in ensuring their well-being. So be prepared, be patient, and be there for them. And when you feel like you need more help, don't hesitate to seek out mental health professionals and support systems—they can make all the difference.

Contact Jackson House at (888) 255-9280 for more information about mental health resources. We're here to help with 24/7 support for anyone struggling with any mental health issue.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.