relationships Mandy Kloppers

How To Help A Spouse With A Mental Illness

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It isn’t easy to see your significant other deal with a mental health diagnosis. There could be bouts of anger, sadness, worry, and denial here and there, all of which could affect your home’s atmosphere.

If you’re in this situation, it’s okay to find the whole ordeal taxing and even painful. Just know that your spouse feels the same way. But while many people give up and walk away, those who are truly dedicated to their marriage will do their best to accompany their beloveds through the ups and downs.

When you promised your spouse to be with them for ‘better or worse,’ after all, this ‘worse’ includes the challenges you will both face as they work through their mental illness. It definitely looks daunting at the outset, but with the right knowledge, expectations, and help, mutual growth and recovery are possible.

Here are the steps you should take to provide support for a loved one with a mental illness:

  1. See A Counsellor Together

One of the most important pieces of advice to remember for challenges like this is that you don’t have to go through it alone. Some professionals, such as therapists and counsellors, have spent years studying the effect mental illnesses have on marital relationships. You can talk to your spouse about getting mental health-focused marriage counselling Sydney or wherever you are to find effective solutions for their concerns together.

Obviously, unpacking baggage concerning mental health is almost always a nerve-wracking, embarrassing, and even painful experience. Fortunately, good counsellors uphold the confidentiality of their clients and offer a non-judgemental approach toward sensitive topics. Just let yourselves pull the first few awkward sessions to find out if the counselling can work. Don’t worry; professional ones always let you take your time.

A Sydney marriage counsellor or an equivalent one in your area can also help facilitate conversations between the two of you when hostile feelings arise due to mental health issues. With their aid, you can resolve issues amicably and proactively.

  1. Get To Know The Signs Of A Mental Illness

Unless your spouse was already diagnosed long ago, you may have to discern if certain patterns in their behaviour may indicate a mental illness.

They may seem distant and cold or irritable and prickly for long periods of time. Or, they may develop an intense enthusiasm for certain hobbies only to drop them while sinking into lethargy. These sharp persistent shifts in behaviour are typical signs of mental issues, but these could also be dismissed as signs of stress, mere squabbles, or ‘just a bad day.’

No two people experience mental health symptoms the same way, but there are common patterns you can spot. These include:

  • Emotional outbursts which aren’t typical for them
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
  • Increasing unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle choices (e.g., binging, alcoholism, and even illicit drugs
  • A debilitating loss of interest or satisfaction in their routines
  • Expressing thoughts of harming themselves

When you notice these, practice the utmost patience and compassion in approaching your loved one about them. It can be very difficult to understand your spouse, but they may share the same feeling of confusion and helplessness that you have, especially for undiagnosed cases.

If your spouse is in that situation, you may want to discuss the matter of seeking help with them. Wait for a non-stressful time and setting to talk about it privately. You can expect resistance at first. But so long as you emphasize that you’re bringing this up for their sake, you can reach an agreement. Give them time to process this, as well.

  1. Take Good Care Of Yourself

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Supporting a spouse with mental illness entails taking good care of yourself at the same time. Otherwise, you’ll only be left unable to do anything for the person you’re sacrificing much for.

Remember, it takes two to have a good marriage, so practicing self-care as your spouse recovers from their mental illness isn’t selfish. It’s one of the best things you can do to help each other.

Think about what helps you recharge and make time for this every so often. This includes simple things like:

  • Spending time with your friends or loved ones
  • Maintaining a regular, healthy sleep cycle
  • Nourishing your body with nutritious food
  • Making time for physical activity or regular exercise


  1. Spend Time Together

There are days when your spouse will want to be alone. You have to give them that time to be by themselves. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should now be distant from your spouse. Encourage spending time together once in a while. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy as long as the effort comes from you. There will be days when you simply being there will keep them going.


Walk The Road To Healing Together

The earlier and more proactively a mental illness is addressed, the better the outlook for themselves and your relationship. So, if you truly want to give your spouse the best shot they have at healthier living, be willing to journey with them. These suggestions are just a few of the steps you’ll have to take together.

Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers