The ins and outs of dating someone with mental illness

Graphic by Kash Patel

While studying at university, balancing school work, clubs, sports, a social life and potentially a part-time job can be incredibly overwhelming. Oftentimes, adding a relationship into the mix can quickly become an additional stressor.

When you are already dealing with mental health issues, relationships in university, as well as life in general, can be incredibly intimidating and overwhelming. With 20 per cent of Canadian adults being affected by a mental illness in any given year, it is safe to assume that there is a large group of students at Laurier who are part of that 20 per cent.

Taking all of this into consideration, it is important for students to understand what it means to be in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness and how they can help support their partner.

First and foremost, the best thing you can do for yourself and your partner when dating someone with a mental illness is to learn as much as you can about the condition — whether it be anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or any other condition.

You can learn more about what your partner is going through by way of your own research, or just by having an open and honest conversation with your partner about what they are going through. There’s a vast amount of reliable information online about mental health and how you can help your partner while still taking care of yourself.

It is also important to understand what triggers your partner and what you can do to help them when they are manic, depressed or having a panic attack. Triggers are different for every person and could be as simple as not getting a good night’s sleep.

People with mental illnesses can still be happy, funny and loving people and if you are willing to be sensitive and patient with their needs; there is no need to hesitate before getting into a relationship with them.

Communication is key in order to learn what it is that your partner needs when they are struggling. Knowing whether they need space, someone to talk to or just someone to sit with them will allow you to be able to help them without causing any more stress or harm.

Above all, the greatest asset you can have in a relationship impacted by mental health is patience. These relationships can be complicated and can be a lot of hard work, but if you are patient and empathetic of your partners condition, a happy and successful relationship is completely attainable.

When dating someone who is affected by a mental illness, it is crucial to ensure that you are also taking care of yourself and not losing sight of your own priorities and well-being in order to support your partner.

Mental illness does not excuse poor behaviour, and if you feel you are being treated poorly in your relationship you need to speak up for yourself and set appropriate boundaries. Allowing your partner to become dependent on you and catering to their every need is more likely to cause more problems for them and damage your relationship with them.

People with mental illnesses can still be happy, funny and loving people and if you are willing to be sensitive and patient with their needs; there is no need to hesitate before getting into a relationship with them.

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