Archives for March, 2011

When You Learn Your Partner Has a Mental Illness: Part 2

[Yesterday we discussed the first steps in how to handle a diagnosis of a mental illness in your partner. Read that post here.]

As you gather information, talking with your partner about what you find is extremely important. After all, it’s his or her life. Just because you find a treatment that sounds promising does not mean your partner will agree. Your role as the partner is to be supportive.

This is a tricky balance because you probably want to help, and you want to help quickly because you don’t want to see your partner continue to struggle. On the other hand, this will be one of your first lessons in learning about how mental illness works. You will quickly discover that treatment and recovery only go well when all the other aspects of the patient’s life—including partner support—are going well, too.

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When You Learn Your Partner Has a Mental Illness: Part 1

When it comes to illness—of any kind—we tend to be a society that sticks its head in the sand until the problem presents itself in a way that can’t be ignored. With a mental illness, there may be many signs along the way that something isn’t quite right: your partner’s mood changes, they aren’t interested in activities they once loved, responsibilities aren’t being taken care of, there are more arguments, they gain or lose a significant amount of weight, etc.

Even with obvious signs, the diagnosis of a mental illness can come as a shock. And as the partner, what can you do?

First, do not panic. It’s understandable that you will feel a range of emotions—from shock to sadness to anger to fear, and more—but the bottom line is that the diagnosis is probably not an emergency.** There is time to learn about the diagnosis, talk with doctors and therapists, and formulate a treatment plan. While you and your partner will probably be eager to alleviate the symptoms, taking time to research and investigate the options will most likely result in a better outcome.
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Ten Ways to be a Supportive Partner

What does it mean to be a "supportive partner" to someone who has a mental illness? There are many ways you can help your partner, both during times of acute illness and when life is in in "maintenance mode."

Here are ten ways you can be a supportive partner:

1. Listen carefully and listen well.

Listening well is a skill and takes practice. However, the benefits of being a good listener...
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