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How to talk to your partner about your mental health while self-isolating

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Megan Murray
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Mental Health Awareness Week has arrived as we close in on our second month of lockdown and it’s never been more important to talk about our emotional wellbeing. But how do you tackle that conversation with your partner?

Mental health is such a deeply personal thing and it can be hard to talk about with even those closest to us. But, as Mental Health Awareness Week highlights, getting comfortable with addressing our mental wellbeing can help us and those around us – especially in a pressurised situation like the nationwide lockdown. 

The coronavirus pandemic has become a cause for anxiety for many of us. Worries for loved ones who may be vulnerable, uncertainty over jobs and the loneliness that comes with being cooped up inside all day are bound to affect our mental health.

If you’ve been struggling with the uncertainty of the times we’re living in but find it challenging to share these struggles with your partner, you’re not alone. This is a problem more common than it might feel.

Superdrug Online Doctor surveyed 1,000 people with either a diagnosed mental health issue or in a relationship with someone who has one, and found that on average it takes nine months to talk about it.

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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.

Talking to a partner about ill mental health can be difficult.

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. 

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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. 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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