Mental Illness in Your Relationship

Mental illness can be difficult for anyone to manage on their own, but finding out that your partner has a mental illness (like depression or bipolar disorder) can bring on its own set of challenges. This is especially if you don’t fully understand your partner’s mental illness and their needs. So what’s the best way to handle mental illness when you’re in a relationship? Here’s advice Choma*

*(this is assuming that your partner has revealed to you that they have a mental health problem and you want to support them through it. This is not advice for someone who only suspects their partner might have a mental health problem. If you’re not sure Choma, read more on common mental health issues and their treatments first here).


The first thing to do is understand your partner’s illness so that you can understand what they are going through. If you need to speak to someone for help on how to understand your partner’s mental illness and how to help them through it, then speak to a mental health professional who can guide you. If you don’t know of a professional near you, you can contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on their mental health line: 011 234 4837


Don’t shy away from talking and listening to your partner about what they’re going through. If your partner understands their mental health problem then they are probably the best person to talk to about how to support them. Encourage them to share their feelings with you so that you can support them emotionally. Talking and listening to your partner can help you both get through this and find balance as a couple.

Understand your partner needs treatment

Mental illness, like any illness, needs treatment and time. Your partner can’t just ‘fix’ themselves or get over their illness. Just like you wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to just get over it and walk, you shouldn’t expect someone with a mental illness to ‘snap out of it’. Understand that they need treatment so that they can recover. Again Choma, if you’re struggling with how to deal with this and how to support your partner through it, contact SADAG’s mental health line: 011 234 4837.

Get counselling

One of the most important things here Choma, is for you and your partner to get counseling. You should get counsellingon your own (without each other) so that you can each talk to a professional individually about what you’re going through. However, you should also get counseling as a couple so that the counsellor can give you both perspective and guidance. You can try to find a counselor in your area or find one online by visiting SADAG.You can also contact LifeLine on 0800 055 555.

Remember I am also here to talk whenever you need to and will provide you with the necessary helplines wherever I can Choma.

Being in a relationship with a partner who has a mental illness won’t be easy Choma – it will be hard at times – which is why it’s so important to get counselling. If you and your partner love each other and want to make your relationship work, it will take effort to find balance but it is possible. You would both need to love each other, respect each other and be patient with each other. If you communicate and make an effort to understand each other’s needs then mental illness is something you can handle in your relationship.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).