How to support your significant other if they are mentally ill

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The prevalence of mental illnesses seems to be increasing more and more in today’s society. Not only can it be difficult for the person with the mental illness to deal with, but also their boyfriend or girlfriend. It can be hard to see someone you love going through pain and it can be equally as hard to try and support them when things you are doing do not seem to be helping. Here are some tips on how to support your significant other if they have a mental illness.

Learn how to recognize the symptoms

When someone is mentally ill there may be times when it becomes better or worse. It is important that you understand the signs that your significant other shows when they are starting to experience things like depression or anxiety. Have a conversation with your boyfriend or girlfriend about what warning signs you should look for. They may not always know what they are or want to share them with you so it is important to be observant of their behaviour. If you notice a change in energy level, mood or personality then it may be time to bring it up with them or help them find resources to access. It is important to be supportive even during the times when their mental illness seems to be less severe, but knowing the signs of when it is going to become worse is a good strategy in helping them.

Be there for them

There is no doubt about it that it can be hard to be in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness. It is important that you are always there for them even through the rough patches. Sometimes they will lash out or try to isolate themselves and at these times it is more important than ever to be there for them. Let them know you are willing to support them in any way. If they want to be alone, let them and if they want to be with you, let them. Make sure they know they can be completely comfortable with you and you are open to listen to them.

Take care of yourself

Supporting your significant other when they are experiencing mental health issues can be exhausting. It is important that while you are supporting them you take time for yourself and are doing things that are good for you. Find out what makes you feel relaxed and happy and take time out of every day to do those things. Your boyfriend or girlfriend will appreciate that you are taking time to better yourself and watching you care for yourself may influence them to take part in self-care activities.

Do not always try to fix it

A common issue in many relationships is the feeling of wanting to fix everything. If you love someone, it is inevitable that you always want them to feel happy, but that is not realistic. Everyone has their bad days and sometimes it is best to let someone feel the sadness and start a new day tomorrow. If they need to cry about something then be there to comfort them, but you do not always need to try to stop the sadness.

If they want to talk, listen

Not everyone wants to talk about their problems in general let alone to their boyfriend or girlfriend. However, if your significant other starts talking about things like trauma, someone close to them that passed away or why they feel sad then it is important to listen. You do not always need to respond to everything they say because they might just want to get it out and need someone there to listen. If you are going to respond, do it in a way that makes them know they are in a safe space and that you fully support them.

If you are interested in seeking support, contact Fanshawe’s Counselling and Accessibility Services in room F2010 or contact them at 519-452-4282 or