Research shows that on average it can take up to nine months to talk to a partner about ill mental health.
The coronavirus pandemic has, understandably, become a cause for anxiety for many of us. Worries for loved ones that may be vulnerable, uncertainty over jobs and the boredom or loneliness that could come with being cooped up inside all day are bound to affect our mental health.
But for those who were struggling with mental health issues already, this time of quarantine can be even more difficult – especially if they’re struggling to talk about how they’re feeling with those around them.
This isn’t unusual. We know that talking about ill mental health can be daunting when talking to a partner, but research by Superdrug Online Doctor of 1,000 people with either a diagnosed mental health issue or in a relationship with someone who has one, showed that on average it takes nine months to talk about it.
The research showed that the biggest reasons for waiting this long were worries over whether their partner would understand, what they might think or that they wouldn’t take the issue seriously.
“Talking about your mental health is hard, in fact it’s sometimes more difficult to open up to your friends and family than it is to a stranger,” says mental health advocate Jo Loves, speaking to stylist.co.uk. “Starting the conversation, however, does have huge potential benefits, most notably increased family support and reassurance.”
Loves explains that the most crucial thing isn’t necessarily that your partner (or family and friends) completely understand what you’re going through, the main thing is to make them aware you’re struggling so that they can be there for you, support you and assist you in finding the help you need.
“Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues aren’t always easily described, especially to people who don’t have personal experience with it. What’s important is that your loved ones know that you’re not well and need to see a professional, even if they don’t fully grasp all the ins and outs,” she adds.
How to talk to a partner about your mental health issues
Plan what you’re going to say
Decide on what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Loves recommends making some bullet points with clear and direct examples of how the way you are feeling is impacting your life. It is important to make it obvious that you aren’t just having a down moment and that this is a serious issue for you.
Pick an appropriate time
Although it could be tempting to blurt out how you’re feeling if you’re in a heated situation, Loves advises not ambushing your partner and instead taking the time to sit down with them without any distractions, when you both have no other plans.
Think about what you want from the conversation before you have it
Not only will having an idea of what you want from the conversation help you with structuring what you’d like to say, but it gives the other person a much better chance of reacting in a way that feels supportive to you, if you give them a heads up of what you need. Loves says: “Would you like for them to provide more emotional support? Simply listen to you talk without interruption or making suggestions? Your ask might be as simple as them helping you find a therapist. Be clear how they can support you and it will help them feel useful,” Loves says.
If you can’t talk about it, find another way
If you’re struggling with the conversation to the point you’re putting it off, change tack. If talking won’t work for you why not write a letter instead? Send them an email and give them time to digest it before you arrange to talk about what you’ve said. Or even leave them a voice note or voicemail if you’d like to put your point across by talking, but can’t face them.