How to Talk to Your Partner About Getting Mental Health Care
If your partner is showing signs of a mental health condition, it can be difficult to know what to do. It can be particularly hard when you feel strongly that they would feel better if they sought professional help, but you’re not sure how to make that happen.
If you’re in this situation, you first have to understand that you cannot force your partner to go to therapy or start medication. And even if you could, mental health care is most effective when the person wants help.
Start instead with a goal of having open, honest, and compassionate communication with your partner about their mental health. Here are some ways that you can approach these difficult conversations.
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Know Your Goals
Before opening the conversation, be clear with yourself about what you hope both parties will get from the conversation. Most importantly, be realistic. It’s not likely that your partner will immediately be thrilled at the idea of getting mental health care and make an appointment right away.
In talking with your partner about mental health, you may try to:
- Ensure they feel understood and supported
- Give them ideas about how they could address the situation
- Let them know you are in it together
- Open the line of communication and keep it open for later
- Ensure you’re on the same page about what’s going on
- Get their perspective on their symptoms and possible solutions
With goals like these in mind, you’re more likely to have a conversation that helps you both move to a healthy place.
Use “I Statements”
Even though you’re talking about your partner’s mental health, try to use sentences that start with “I,” rather than those that start with “you.” Yes, it’s cliche, but sometimes things become cliches for a reason. These so-called “I statements” take the blame off of your partner and keep them from getting defensive.
For example, at first, you may be tempted to say, “You have been really sad lately and you have slept a lot.” Can you see how someone who is in a difficult emotional state may get defensive when hearing that? Instead, try saying, “I have noticed that you seem sad and tired lately, and I’m worried.”
The second way of phrasing it also lets your partner know that you’re talking to them about it because you care about their mental health, not because you’re frustrated with their actions.
Be Open About Your Mental Health
If you have benefitted from mental health care in the past or if you currently are in care, be sure to be open about it. You do not need to tell your partner everything about what you say in therapy; that’s your time. But simply expressing how you felt about mental health care before and how you feel about it now can help. Plus, it can break the stigma!
Don’t Armchair Diagnose
Even if it seems clear that your partner is living with a specific mental health condition, try to avoid putting a label on it. Leave that to the professionals. Instead, focus on the specific behaviors and symptoms that seem to be hurting your loved one.
Your partner is unhappy, and a professional can help. If they want to talk about the details of their feelings, that’s ok. But avoid getting into an argument about the nitty-gritty of diagnostics.
Gently Offer Resources
While you cannot force your partner into mental health care, you can give them the resources they need if they decide to take that route. Before opening up the conversation, be ready to talk about different possibilities. For example, if your partner is thinking about ending their life, seek immediate medical attention.
Otherwise, find a local therapist and psychiatric care provider that may work for your partner. You may even provide a few options. Be sure they take your partner’s insurance, and simply give your partner the information with no pressure. In their own time, when they are ready, they can get the help they need.