Two in three (63%) people with mental health problems who tell their partners about their condition have said that partners ‘weren’t fazed’ and were ‘really understanding’ when they first heard the news.
The UK’s leading mental health charity Mind and the largest provider of relationship support, Relate, have today released research which shows that 77% of people with a mental health problems surveyed actively tell their partners about their mental health, and only 5% of those people said their partners broke up with them when they heard about their condition. 74% of a random sample of people with experience of being a partner of someone with a mental health problem surveyed said they weren’t fazed or wanted to understand the other person’s situation when they were told, and just 4% of those people said they felt afraid.
Mind and Relate surveyed over 1,000 people with an experience of mental health problems in romantic relationships and asked a range of questions about communication and commitment. The charities have found that the majority of people in relationships where someone has a mental health problem communicate openly about the issue. Romantic relationships can have a major positive impact on people’s mental health, and the majority of partners are understanding about the situation.
The survey found that:
- 74% of people surveyed with a mental health problem said they regularly talk about their mental health with their partner, and three in five (60%) of these people said it then ‘made the relationship easier to manage’
- Three in five (60%) people with mental health problems said being in a relationship has had a ‘positive impact’ on their mental health
- Half (50%) of partners surveyed said dating someone with a mental health problem wasn’t as daunting as they thought it might be
- Of these people, 47% said it was because they felt the mental health problem does not define the person.
However, people with mental health problems and partners revealed, amongst other pressures such as financial and employment issues, that the mental health problem did put the most strain on relationships. Four in five people (80%) with mental health problems surveyed said it had affected their sex life, with loss of libido and feeling unattractive or self-conscious as main issues, in comparison to just three in five (60%) partners who said it affected their sex life.
Melissa Thompson, 30, found herself struggling to cope with the loss of her mother and broke down after organising the funeral on her own and not feeling able to open up to anyone about her grief. After months of feeling suicidal and self-harming, she was eventually diagnosed with depression and received professional support. Melissa has said that Andy, her current boyfriend, was the only person she felt like she could fully open up to about her mental health problems.
Melissa said: “Andy was the only person who I could talk to. He became the closest person to me as he took the time out to listen and tried to understand what I was going through. I often felt like I was worth nothing, but Andy was there every step of the way and helped me through everything, all the tears, frustration and even the times when he found out all about my past and the lead up to my break down. I can’t say it was easy, but he was the rock that I needed and he persevered with me when I was at my worst.
“When I talk to my friends about my experiences they all say that they wouldn’t have known what to say to me, or how to help me. That’s why Andy is unique, he didn’t judge me, he was positive, and he just sat there and listened to me. It’s not about giving people counselling when they’re going through a tough time or giving them answers, sometimes you just need a pair of ears to listen to you when there are no easy solutions.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We are really delighted to see that there is a culture of openness between people with mental health problems and their partners and, maybe because of lessening stigma, more people feel that a potential partner revealing that they have a mental health problem isn’t as big as an issue as expected.
“However, we know that mental health problems can put a substantial strain on romantic relationships, as three in five people with mental health problems said it caused partnerships to break-up in the past.
“This research shows us that there are unique benefits of close relationships for people with mental health problems and that open communication is vital, so we would encourage anyone finding their relationship hard to manage to seek appropriate support and advice as soon as they can.”
Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive of Relate, said: “It is heartening to hear that 60% of people surveyed thought that being in a relationship has had a positive impact on their mental health, which bears out the experience of Relate, where we know that relationships are one of the most important aspects of our everyday lives and are central to our wellbeing.
“However, this survey also shows that mental health problems can place extra strain on a relationship and it is worrying to hear that four in five people said that it had affected their sex life for instance. We would encourage people who are experiencing problems in their relationship to seek help and support as you don’t need to feel alone.”
Sources: Mind & Relate