When Your Partner Has Anxiety: 8 Tips for Getting Help
As I have alluded to in my other post When It’s Time to Get Help With Your Anxiety and Depression, getting help wasn’t simple. So, I thought who better to tell you how to get your partner with anxiety or depression to get help than the person who helped me: My partner. Without further ado, here are his tips on how to get your partner the professional help they need when they are struggling with anxiety and depression, complete with my helpful gif additions. You're welcome.
Tip # 1 - Patience, Gentleness and Non-Judgment
Of course, patience, gentleness, and non-judgment are essential. I knew Kyla wasn’t going to agree to see somebody until she decided for herself that she was ready.
Forcing it only makes it harder.
Tip #2 – Do Your Research
I put a lot of work into learning about what services were available in our city. I always tried to destigmatize accessing mental health (I told her it was totally normal; they don’t pour millions of dollars put into those resources for no reason; accessing mental health services is a sign of strength, not weakness, etc.). I also tried to make it as easy as possible for her to access the services.
I started by asking trusted friends what resources they used; I asked for referrals, and stories.
Learn as much as you can about a counsellor’s/psychologist’s background, their education, their approach. Cognitive behavioural therapy has a good reputation for not being fluffy, and a good CBT therapist’s end goal should be to have the client no longer require help.
I was eventually able to dispel a lot of her fears by having lots of good information.
Tip #3 – Be Discrete
I always asked as if it was for me, not for Kyla, so she wouldn’t feel implicated. There is a lot of shame and guilt packed into what she was experiencing, and she would have been mortified and hated me forever if I was going around asking for advice or talking about her experience to others.
Tip #4 – Make The Call
Once I had a list, I called the organizations that I had found and had conversations with the front desk staff to better understand the services they offered, the wait times, and the intake process.
I asked them for advice on how my partner could feel safe coming to speak to them. They were always wonderful, saying that she could contact them directly when she was ready, or that they would be happy to communicate through me if that would make it easier for her.
Keep in mind that these people are professionals and want to help you, so even calling and checking it out is a step in the right direction.
Tip #5 – Communicate
Once I was prepared with a lot of information, I told her I had been thinking about some of the things she had been struggling with, and that I had done a bit of research. I asked if I could share what I had learned. You know your partner best – you’ll have to feel out how best to drop this into conversation.
We are lucky that we already had excellent communication skills and a habit of telling each other everything. It also helped that I had been to see a psychologist before as well, so I could share my experience, good and bad.
Tip #6 - Make It Easy
I kept it really open, saying to Kyla that I wanted to learn what I could, and maybe, *together* we could pursue any options that seemed to have value. I always asked for Kyla’s permission before I did anything more. I asked if she would be willing to speak to the people I had spoken to, so she could hear for herself, and ask any other questions she had.
A really key piece of information you need to know is their hours – if your partner calls them or tries to visit while they are not open, they might give up.
I made sure I was always gently holding her accountable, while facilitating each step she wavered on. Making it simple will help your partner avoid the emotional labour of actually carrying out the tasks involved in this process, including finding the phone numbers, office hours, bus routes, etc. and will ultimately help them feel like it is less daunting and give them fewer excuses not to do it.
At one point, I even asked her if I dialed the number and talked to the receptionist, if she would talk to them. She asked me to dial, but decided she could do the talking once it rang.
Tip #7 – Deal with Objections
When I first suggested that Kyla seek help, she was full of excuses and objections. Without a doubt this will happen when you approach your partner about seeking help.
She claimed it wasn’t really that bad, after crying in my arms for two hours and mulling over reasons to live. It was clearly pretty bad. You wouldn’t wait until all your teeth have fallen out to visit the dentist. You should not wait until you are on the brink of self-destruction to seek help.
She tried to object that other people had it so much worse – which I assured her was not a good reason to avoid seeking help.
She said she couldn’t afford help.
So, I prioritized the cheap or free mental health resources available in our city. Things that are cheap and good are never fast, unfortunately, so we found that the waiting list was several months long. We talked about it and we agreed that we would put her name on the waiting list, and try something else in the meantime.
Tip #8 – Mind Your Own Business
As the process unfolded and Kyla was put in touch with professionals and started her visits, I took a step back. I stayed involved to the extent that I stayed curious and created the space for her to talk to me if she needed to, but I also realized that those conversations are none of my business.
Links to Mental Health Resources
Isn’t he great? He didn’t have to do what he did, but he did it all, while I was being a huge pain in the ass the entire time. I am super grateful. We don’t all have someone willing to take such good care of us and sometimes we need to take things into our own hands.
That being said, when you are trying to support someone with anxiety or depression, it is absolutely essential that you take care of your mental health as well. Please keep in mind that this list of Mental Health Resources is also here to help you out as well. Call them, chat with them, talk to them about what is happening with your partner and how you feel about it. Using them will also help your partner feel more comfortable seeking help as well.
One of the most effective ways to help your partner prioritize their mental health is to prioritize your own. Show them that there is no reason to be afraid to seek help.
This is where I have a digital therapist. It is actually a lot cheaper than seeing a counsellor in person (in some cases), and it shakes out to about $32 a week, billed monthly. You have the opportunity to write to your therapist WHENEVER you want, night or day, and they respond once a day. I like it because I can use it as a journal. I often discount my experiences or don’t think they are important, so having a record is great, and my therapist can see everything that is happening in my life. If you don’t have the option of seeing someone in person, this is a great alternative.
There are a ton of mood trackers available on the App store or Google play store. I found these super helpful because I was able to record what I was feeling while I was feeling it. Over time I was able to see some trends like how I often felt more anxious when I couldn’t sleep, or I felt more anxious on Sunday nights if I had to work the next day. It is a great way to get to know yourself a little better. This knowledge is power and can help you make links, discover your triggers, and create new habits and safe spaces.
Just google mental health resources and you will find a ton of stuff. Mental health awareness is becoming more mainstream (yay!). Many of these sites like Life Line Canada have apps and resources for both those struggling with mental health issues, and those trying to support their loved ones
My medical doctor actually recommended this to me when I had an epic meltdown in his office (the first day we met, yay!). They have great self-help resources, including worksheets, downloads and a new app!
Tumblr Trauma Resources (TW: Discusses sexual assault and rape.)
Tumblr is a great community that is really into the mental health scene. It takes some digging but you can find some excellent resources, stories, and communities that are all about mental health and taking care of each other. This is just one master post, from ONE blog, but you get the picture.
Online Chat Groups and Hotlines
An Online Crisis Network. The first online network with 100% of its volunteers trained and certified in crisis intervention.
The goal of OK2TALK is to create a community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems and encourage them to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope. Anyone can add their voice by sharing creative content such as poetry, inspirational quotes, photos, videos, song lyrics and messages of support in a safe, moderated space.
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Samaritans free, confidential, 24-hour emotional support and crisis response hotline service is available on an immediate and ongoing basis to help people who are dealing with every kind of problem, illness, trauma or loss as they try to cope with their difficulties.
Search for a free support group near you, or learn how to start a support group. ADAA does not have listings in every U.S. state or Canadian province or territory but does have listings in Australia, South Africa, and for groups run online or by phone.
An interactive program that will help parents and caregivers find reliable information on different mental health issues, recommendations on how to manage these issues, shared strategies from other parents and peers, and incorporate strategies from other parents and peers into their own care plan.
Here are some other people's lists with even more resources.
Whichever way you decide to start taking care of yourself is valid, so long as you are getting the help you need. I had (and still have) the help of a team of Naturopathic Doctors, Bowen Therapists, Acupuncturists, Counsellors, and an incredible Medical Doctor.
Depression and anxiety doesn't just live in your brain, it lives in your life, it lives in your relationships, it lives in your body and your actions, so when it comes time to tackle it once in for all, remember to look at the big picture.
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Do you want to support those struggling with mental illness get the care they need, while supporting Mental Health Research? I am teaming up with the Canadian Association of Mental Health and Addiction to raise money for their campaign, #OneBraveNight! Click here to find out more and donate.