Expert chat with SANE: Mental health in relationships

Our mental health and relationships expert, HelenHelen from the mental health charity SANE came to talk to us about the challenges mental health issues can bring up in relationships and how to manage them.

Anna: I am potentially starting a new relationship soon but how do I address my issue with self-harm without pushing them away as they have no idea about any of my mental health issues as I am scared that if people knew they would judge me.

Helen Cleather: Hi Anna, thanks for your question. Starting a new relationship brings up lots of new emotions - exciting, scary and intense feelings. It can take time to trust someone and to feel comfortable sharing about your mental health and self-harming.

Jo: We also have this article on telling your boyfriend or girlfriend about a mental health problem - well worth a read :)

Georgia: I have quite severe mental health problems (mainly mood disorder with psychosis) and my boyfriend has autism. There are times where what he does, or what he doesn't understand, makes me really frustrated and I get very over emotional (for example, if he cancels before we are about to meet I have a huge melt down). Just want some advice on how to deal with my emotions in situations like this, and also how to help him deal with my emotions?

Helen Cleather: Hi Georgia, thanks for sharing a bit of your story with me. It can be hard in a relationship when both of you have your own personal issues going on and perhaps it is hard to communicate at times. It may help if you both can sit down and try and understand each other's conditions more, as your boyfriend's autism can unfortunately create communication issues at times due to how he may relate to others.

Alex: I've just started counselling, and my boyfriend wants to know absolutely everything we've talked about afterwards. I've been talking about him so I don't really want to say 'cos it'd upset him. But he knows I'm hiding something so he gets upset anyway, and I don't know how to explain it to him.

Helen Cleather: It is tricky Alex as I can hear you care about your boyfriend but it may be helpful to sit down and talk to him about why counselling is important for you and that you need his support in doing it. You can tell him that it is a personal space and it can be difficult to share so you don't feel comfortable to talk to him about everything you say.

Zoe: I feel really low recently and I keep getting angry and snapping at everyone easily.. How can I stop this?

Helen Cleather: Hello Zoe, thanks for sharing your feelings with me. It sounds really difficult for you to be feeling this way. Have you been feeling low for some time?

Zoe: Yeah, I guess but recently it's been getting quite bad. It's been getting a lot worse I should say.

Helen Cleather: It can feel quite overwhelming when we feel low and perhaps it feels easier to snap at people as you aren't feeling very good and are finding it hard to communicate how you are feeling.

Zoe: I don't feel like I could confide in anyone about this. I seem to be pushing everyone away and I don't want to do that.

Helen Cleather: It sounds difficult for you Zoe. It's very common for us to snap at the people who we are close to rather than strangers as they are the people we are closest to despite not feeling able to share with them. It may be helpful to keep using some online resources to help you, such as chat on The Mix. You could also contact SANE at their SANEmail service, which provides confidential emotional support by email. It may help you to talk about your thoughts and feelings there in a safe space before being able to open up to those in your life.

Jo: This article on The Mix could be useful for you too Zoe: How to Talk About Your Mental Health.

Lindsey: I've recently got into another relationship, which has been going on for a month or so, and the person I'm in it with is struggling. I've become attached and dropped several of my issues on him, and at times threaten to kill myself if he thinks about leaving me. Which isn't normal. I get attached to people, and it's got to a point where everyone I go out with seems to want to leave me, leading to all sorts of negative behaviours, how do you think I should deal with it?

Helen Cleather: Hi Lindsey, thank you for sharing with me. It sounds tough for you and it sounds like you are trying to figure out how to be in relationships. The transition from the initial really intense part into a more settled relationship can be tricky and it's easy to think that someone might be going off you but in fact things are just settling down a bit. It sounds like you have some really difficult emotions going on for you and I wonder if anything happened to make you think they wanted to leave you?

Lindsey: Like I would want to know everything about him, what he does, who he is talking to, where he's going when not with me, and when he is, I tend to take his phone look through his texts and facebook and stuff.

Helen Cleather: It sounds like perhaps being in a relationship causes you some anxiety and perhaps it is hard to trust the other person that they want to be and stay with you.

Zoe: My ex was a bit like this Lindsey. I would just say try and seek some professional help from your GP or something if you haven't already. I will say there is less chance of your boyfriend leaving you if you're happy together and just relaxed without all of these intense feelings putting pressure on everything.

Helen Cleather: That's good advice Zoe. It is always good to focus on yourself and how you feel within yourself as if you seek some support and can identify what maybe triggering this behaviour it will help your relationships in the long run.

Next Steps

  • SANE offers support and information to people affected by mental illness. Call their helpline on 0300 304 7000, open 4:30pm - 10:30pm every day.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Updated on 29-Sep-2015