All you need is love – and mental health acceptance
By Liz Lockhart
On the eve of Valentine’s Day it is worth considering how mental health can affect a romantic relationship. A new survey has found that 75% of people with a mental health problem would feel scared to tell their partner about it for the first time.
The survey also found that one in ten respondents said that it took them over a year to finally tell a new partner about their mental illness. This goes to show that many people still feel afraid to open up about something which affects one in four of us.
‘It’s time to take. It’s Time to Change’ is aiming to encourage the public to open up about mental health with a short silent film. The film is quirky and takes a light-hearted approach to relationships and mental health. It shows a woman telling a new boyfriend that she has bipolar disorder on their fifth date. It captures her worries about telling him and he responds with various misconceptions about mental health but it does have a positive and romantic ending.
The actors in this film are from the theatre company ‘Likely Story’ and many of them have lived experience of mental health problems. One of the group talks about the importance of tackling stigma. ‘In 2009 my partner had a breakdown and experienced depression and anxiety for six months. I acted as his primary carer during this time. At times, his mental health proved extremely debilitating for him. For me it was extremely distressing and caused some strain on our relationship. We’d been happily together for seven years, but it still seemed so difficult to talk about what was happening,’ she said. He felt embarrassed and I felt worried that somehow I had let him down. As we begun to understand more about mental health, I realised how much stigma surrounds it and that can make it even harder for people to get access to the support they need. My partner is now fully recovered and we’re still very happy together.’
Director of Time to Change, Sue Baker says ‘People with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination in many areas of their lives, even within close relationships. This can be one of the hardest aspects of having a mental health problem – when you’re having a tough time, you need your loved ones around you more than ever, but sadly because of the fear and misunderstanding that still persists around mental illness, this does not always happen.’
‘But you don’t have to be an expert to help your partner if they have a mental health problem. Just a few small words, and being there to talk about it, can make a big difference. This Valentine’s Day is the ideal time to let your partner know you’re there for them.’