June 22, 2012

Couple with babyTalking about mental health with a new partner or even a long term loved one can be daunting.

Our recent survey found that 

  • three quarters of people (75%) living with a mental health problem would feel scared telling their partner about it for the first time
  • one in ten respondents said it took them over a year to finally tell a new partner about their mental illness, which shows that people still feel afraid to open up about something that affects one in four of us. 

But with good advice and understanding, being open can be the key to a strong relationship.

Read Shea's top five tips fordealing with mental illness in their relationship >>

Tips on talking about mental health >>

Video: talking about bipolar on the 5th date

We've produced a short film with theatre company Likely Story to take a look at fear and stigma in relationships. You might have seen Likely Story pop up at one of our roadshows that took place around the country in 2011.

This short film takes a light hearted approach to relationships and mental health, showing a woman telling a new boyfriend that she has bipolar disorder on their fifth date. The video is a quirky way to spread awareness of how mental health can affect different areas of people's lives, and how being open about it at the start can set things off on the right path.

Personal experiences: dating, relationships and mental illness

Bipolar disorder, dating and relationships - So, emboldened by the sight of great food and her smile, shamed by bringing her out to look after a seemingly sulky child, then, buoyed by a momentary, magical lifting of the numbness (as predicted earlier when watching her daintily nibble cake), I carefully explain some of these things I've talked to you about.

Depression, relationships and stigma - I suffer from mental illnesses it’s hardly a chat up line or something you can slip into conversation yet it is something that affects my everyday life.

A couple holding a baby Time to ChangeMore than words: How to approach mental illness in a relationship - together - When I met my boyfriend, I had been diagnosed with bipolar for about four years, and in that four years, I had refused to date or even get close to anyone... 

Step by step, day by day: living with depression in a relationship - My second bout of severe depression started when I was happy with life. My girlfriend of over ten years had just moved in with me in London where I had started working two years before...

Looking back to darkness - It all started in October 2000 when I gave birth to a wonderful baby boy, the son my husband and I had wanted so much. I didn't find the pregnancy the joy I had thought it would be and the birth was a living nightmare...

One of the hardest conversations I’ve had and one of the best things I’ve ever done - I met James when I was 21. We were friends for many years before we started a relationship. I believe I had suffered undiagnosed episodes of depression since my early teens...

Eric, a Time to Change blogger

Step by step, day by day: living with depression in a relationship - My second bout of severe depression started when I was happy with life. My girlfriend of over ten years had just moved in with me in London where I had started working two years before...

Love, honesty and bipolar: "He keeps me out of hospital, he loves me endlessly" - David was separated and looking for a new relationship. He contacted me through MSN in the December of 2003. We sent a few messages back and forth, nothing exciting... 

Depression: "I couldn't pretend I was ok and smile at everyone" - My depression struck when I should have been most happy. I had a job I loved, was still in the honey-moon stage with my boyfriend and we had been settled in our first flat for a couple of months... 

Valentines Day: Couples talk about mental health and relationships - To celebrate Valentine's Day, we asked some of our bloggers to talk about how they manage the issue of mental health with their partners. Read on for some good advice, some home truths and some tear-jerking loveliness!

Video: Liz and Julian talk about depression 

Partners Liz and Julian remember the first time Liz told her boyfriend about the secret of her depression and discuss how talking about mental health together has helped their relationship bloom.

More information

Rethink Mental Illness: information about mental health and relationships >>

What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?

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Or sign our pledge wall to show your support and find out how talking tackles mental health discrimination.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.



I got diagnosed BP when we'd been married about 14 years. My husband freaked out, although he must have known for a while that things weren't right. He's still in denial, especially because I am "well". I'm scared to tell my work, where I've been for over two years, becasue I don't trist them to "look after me" if i do (does that even make sense?)

Re: Bipolar being ignored

As the female partner of a bipolar man, I'm saddened and disappointed for you that your husband freaked out at your diagnosis. I guess it's because he really doesn't understand much about the condition, so I reckon he should find out - with your help. I've done my own research, extensively on-line and by reading many books. If he's not a reader, there's even stuff on You-Tube. My reason for writing is to say that it absolutely depends on what your job is as to whether you should tell them or not. Some professions have less understanding as a group about these matters, so they may need educating too, like your husband, but for some professions, you are obliged to declare this illness. The thing to consider is, are you responsible for vulnerable people such as hospital patients, children or the elderly? The reason you must declare the illness is in case you got psychotic while you were at work, that could not only be extremely scary for vulnerable people to cope with but could possibly mean you acted in an irresponsible way. If you are medicated, there is far less chance of that happening, there's less chance of you losing your impulse control too, so you are not likely to drive recklessly or to buy shares with abandon. As to your fear of not being looked after, well most employers have a legal responsibility to care for their employees, so even if they didn't feel particularly sympathetic as individuals, your employer still has a "duty of care" towards you.

Mental health tag is demonizing

I believe we are all different and unique and seeing things differently is normal what is wrong is to put a tag on one fourth or fifth of the population. Some things are adjustment problems and not mental health illnesses a disorder can impact as much as an illness but it is not seen as an illness otherwise many more would be hospitalised and restrained. Disorders get less help. To say something is abnormal is also stigmatizing. Therefore best just to explain but if you do you will be raged so you decide what's more important help or your reputation. People can be selfish and will avoid what they cannot understand it a sad old world. Go getters are patted on the back and the quiet shy anxious and histerical or psychotic are hidden in a corner so we do not disrupt those happy people in their peaceful bubble.That's my take on the world. Its a hard tablet to swallow but at least you are for warned best of luck to you.

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