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How to approach your partner if you're worried about their mental health

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Are you concerned about your partner’s mental health?

 

Maybe you’ve noticed that your partner has become more irritable or that they’re having a hard time falling asleep. Perhaps they seem withdrawn and lack energy and enthusiasm. Or maybe they’re far more fidgety and distracted than usual. If you notice changes in your partner’s mood or behavior that have lasted about two weeks or more, this may mean that they could use some support with their mental health. But, what do you do exactly?

 

As with any other problems that can arise in romantic relationships, you're going to want to address it. While the conversation likely won't be an easy one, it will be necessary. That's because even though suppressing our thoughts and emotions sometimes feels better in the short term, this avoidance creates a far bigger problem in the long run. Acknowledging and expressing our feelings is the best way to work through them.

 

Start off by letting your partner know that the reason you feel the need to have a conversation about their mental health is because you care about their well-being.

 

It will be especially important to think about how you will convey this message of concern to your partner, in a way that is sensitive to their personality, background and circumstances. It may be useful to plan what you’d like to say before the conversation to ensure that you’re delivering your message in a way that is tactful and infused with a hefty dose of compassion, courtesy and discretion.

 

Once you've said your piece, it’s your turn to listen. It’s important to send the message to your partner that you’re available for them to come to you if and when they’re ready to talk about how they’re feeling. Listening is about not just paying attention to the words your partner is saying, but also to their non-verbal cues, like tone of voice, body language, and facial expression.

 

Your partner may react to your concerns about their mental health in several different ways. One important factor that will likely influence your partner’s reaction is the way in which they view mental health. And these views are likely to be heavily shaped by the culture they grew up in, their community, and immediate family. For example, if your partner was raised to believe that mental health issues are shameful or don’t exist altogether, it may make it hard for them to acknowledge to themselves that they’re struggling emotionally - or to share their concerns with you.

 

Is your partner relieved that you're bringing up their mental health? In such an instance, they may want to continue the conversation and research therapy options together.

 

Do they think your concerns are unfounded and that nothing is wrong? Then your partner may want time on their own to process what you're saying. If they still don’t see anything as wrong after some time, one way to approach the situation is by giving your partner space to process and bring it up again in the future if the changes in their mood or behavior continue. If they come back to you and agree that the issues you brought up need to be dealt with, let them know that you'll be there to support them every step of the way. 

 

TIPS TO CONSIDER:

 

  • Use your best judgment to determine your plan of action.
  • Make sure to pick an appropriate time and place to carry out what may be an emotional conversation. Let the person know beforehand that what you want to speak to them about is important, so they go into your conversation a little more prepared. Also, make sure it is somewhere they will feel safe and free to react as they see fit.
  • If you are very nervous about broaching the subject or how your partner will interpret the message you're trying to convey, consider other forms of communication. Maybe you're better at expressing yourself through writing, or you think your partner will respond in a more positive way to a letter. Or maybe your relationship is still quite new, and you broaching the subject over the phone would be most appropriate.

Remember, listening and showing that you’re available to offer support is key when you’re conveying concern to a loved one.

If you need an extra hand for your relationship challenges, MindBeacon is here to help with a variety of supports available in our Virtual Mental Health Therapy Clinic. If you are part of our Workplace Mental Health Program, please visit your company page for access to services covered by your program.

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.