In my previous blog post, You Are Not Your Partner’s Mental Illness, I discussed the types of experiences people with mental illnesses can have. I explained that you are not the cause of their experiences and even though it is hard, you should not feel like you are the problem. You should do what you can to help but remember that you are not their therapist and you can only do so much.
Here are some ways you can help your partner.
- Embrace empathy
- Exercise validation
- Set aside time without distractions to be there for them
- Provide a safe space with no judgment
- Let them share what they want- as much or as little as they are comfortable with
- Don’t try to give them a diagnosis
- Let them lead the conversation
- Try not to make assumptions
- Ask if they want help finding a solution or if they just want to talk
- Listen carefully, sometimes people say things without actually saying them
- Make sure you understand what they mean- repeat back what they said to you
- Offer them support in seeing a professional
- Help them with their overall wellbeing- plan things such as spa days, face masks, cooking a good meal together, exercise, or any other healthy activity you can do together
It is extremely important to know your limits. If the problem becomes too serious for you to handle on your own, you may need to reach out to a professional. If your partner says or does something that makes you believe they are in immediate danger, do not leave them alone and call your/their therapist, a local crisis center, or bring them to your local emergency room. If you do not feel safe bringing them or they refuse to go to the emergency room, call 911.