Living with a significant other, family member, or loved one, can come with its ups and downs. Moreover, if the person you’re living with has a mental illness it can bring a set of new and unfamiliar hardships and possibly exacerbate existing issues. However, that being said, with a bit of extra care, patience, and understanding, living with and supporting someone with a mental health condition is absolutely possible.
While we may not always personally understand the mental health struggles our loved ones go through we can still show compassion, utilise healthy coping mechanisms, and live successfully together under one roof.
According to the World Health Organization around 450 million people are affected by mental or neurological disorders. However, as common as mental illness is, it can still be difficult to know how to help and support our loved ones as the mental health spectrum is complex. It’s important to try and educate yourself as best as you can with trusted resources that can give you a better idea of how to navigate the territory that comes with mental illness. Some useful suggestions for those living with someone with depression or anxiety include:
- Learning About Their Condition: Take the mystery out of mental illness by utilizing the many insightful and helpful resources available online and off. From YouTube videos, books, magazines, and even TikToks, plenty of mental health experts have created a well of information on a variety of conditions.
- Improving Your Communication: Communication can be different when living with a partner diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Becoming an active listener and validating your loved one’s feelings is a great way to show support and understanding. Of course, keep in mind that your loved one needs to also provide the same emotional validation and active listening to you. Communication is a two-way street.
- Being Aware of the Challenges: When trying to successfully live with someone with a mental health condition it’s important to not get blind-sided by an unexpected issue. Mental illness can manifest in a variety of ways such as self-isolation or heightened sensitivity to perceived slights. The key is to remove your relationship from the equation and focus more on how to best respond and overcome these challenges. Keep in mind though that mental illness is never an excuse for someone to abuse or mistreat you.
Informing yourself is easier now more than ever before thanks to the online world. However, it’s important to always check your sources to ensure you don’t perpetuate any harmful behaviors or actions. And always keep in mind that you aren’t a professional and if an issue arises that you aren’t equipped to correctly handle, contact a trusted medical professional and encourage your loved one to get help.
Try a Fresh Coat of Paint
In addition to the emotional and mental support you can provide a loved one while living together, you can also make a few simple changes around the house to further improve the living situation. Our surroundings often have an effect on us, and this definitely includes our homes.
While the long-lasting effects are still debated amongst some experts, studies have shown that certain colors do have an effect on us. Utilizing color psychology, try painting the rooms in your home, particularly the areas you and a loved one spend a lot of time in. Blues can evoke a feeling of calmness and yellows and oranges can improve your mood.
Keep it Clean
Maintaining a clean, clutter-free home has shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. However, the pressure to keep a house spotless can often lead to a worsening of mental health conditions as people often beat themselves up for not being able to keep everything clean. This is why it’s worth considering a simple house cleaning schedule in order to keep your home fresh and organized while also removing some of that toxic pressure and expectation.
Cleaning can become overwhelming quickly, particularly for those who have a mental illness. Try starting with a monthly cleaning checklist, then weekly, and eventually, a daily one. Listing tasks by frequency can make the tasks much easier to process and tackle. You can share a Google Doc with one another or sit down and write the schedule together.
Many of us, without question, would adjust our relationship and certain areas of our life if a loved one was diagnosed with a physical illness, such as diabetes. The same should be said for those living with us who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Support is more than just being there for them when it’s convenient for you. It’s taking an active role in your relationship to better understand their condition, challenges they face, and how to communicate effectively and as positively as possible.
About the Author
Bio: Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S.
She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to health and wellness, including mental health awareness and addiction education.