How to talk to your partner about mental health

Talking about how your partner feels isn't always easy. But, there are some ways you can ask how they are without them shutting down.

There's no denying that talking about sensitive issues can be uncomfortable - even for the closest of couples. It's often difficult to even bring up the issue, let along talk about it in an open way. 

"When talking to your partner, the key thing is to understand each other’s boundaries, know their emotional limits and know when not to cross the line," Lysn psychologist Noosha Anzab says. "There will be times when your partner needs to be left alone, or times when your partner will rely on you for strength and support."

Having an understanding of how your partner's mind works will help you talk about any issues. Noosha details some key things to remember when speaking with your partner about mental health. 

Open lines of communication

"Talking to someone about a sensitive issue can be incredibly hard if both parties don’t feel safe or comfortable to open up. Ensure that your partner knows that you are there for them when they are ready to talk; however don’t put pressure on them to open up to you.

"Let them know if they are struggling with anything that they can turn to you whenever they want, and make sure you respond without judgment. Keep in mind to steer clear of pushing your own experience onto your partner, acknowledging that everyone’s experience is unique to them and instead, actively listening."

Timing is key

"Timing can be everything, especially when it comes to discussing difficult topics. Choose a time when both of you are ready to talk things through and ensure it is a time when you’re both feeling calm. Never bring up sensitive issues right after an argument or as you’re rushing out the door.

"You’ll want to choose a time when you’re relaxed, open minded and not feeling stressed about something you need to do next. Also don’t bring up things right before bed as this can mean your partner might spend the night thinking about the conversation and compounding any feelings they may have had."

Prioritise your own feelings

"Whilst this might sound selfish or completely counter intuitive, always make sure you prioritse your own feelings first. Mood can be contagious, and if your partner is suffering, be careful not to take on a similar affliction. You’ll want to be a pillar of support for your partner, trying to maintain a regular level of emotion. Put an emphasis on your own self-care, whilst still ensuring your partner knows you are always there for support and guidance."

Be informed 

"If you’re considering talking to your partner about mental health and any issues they might be facing, make sure you are informed about the options available for help. There are practical exercises a person can do at home that might make them feel better, such as meditation, exercise and journaling. Then there are professional options such as seeing a psychologist, which can be instrumental in providing the support they need."

Seek out expert advice

"Regardless of how close and open your relationship might be, sometimes your partner might not feel comfortable talking about their issues with you. In this instance, it is important to not take offence as everyone deals with things differently.

"If it seems like they might need to talk about things, suggest some help from the experts like Lifeline and Beyond Blue who offer free advice from professionals. Also suggest face to face therapy sessions or online sessions through services like Lysn, where your partner can even engage in therapy from the comfort of their own home. These services can be instrumental in providing the support your partner needs to treat and manage any issues they might be facing."

For more information, head to Lysn. If you or your partner are in crisis, or are experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts, contact 000 or your local emergency health service.

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