Mental health in a mar­riage

The Manica Post - - Health/religion - Dr Mazvita Machinga

HAPPY mar­riages pro­vide many psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits. Mar­riage in gen­eral may pro­vide en­hanced feel­ings of mean­ing and pur­pose, im­proved sense of self and be­long­ing.

Lit­tle is talked about how un­happy mar­riages lead to neg­a­tive mental health con­se­quences and how pres­ence of an unat­tended mental health prob­lem can af­fect qual­ity of mar­i­tal life.

Mental health prob­lems such as de­pres­sion, post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, de­pres­sion and sub­stance abuse are a ma­jor pub­lic health con­cern, not only for in­di­vid­u­als, but also for cou­ples. I have no­ticed that when a wife or a hus­band has been di­ag­nosed with a mental health prob­lem, many peo­ple do not know what to do

adly, as a mar­riage of­fi­cer and psy­chother­a­pist, I have seen that mental ill­ness of­ten man­i­fests it­self in a mar­riage as big, ugly, and nasty fights or silent stand­offs and stonewalling.

It re­ally de­pends on the per­son­al­ity of the cou­ple and what the mental health con­di­tion is. Is it de­pres­sion, panic at­tacks or what? A woman suf­fer­ing from manic- de­pres­sion might stay up clean­ing the house all night dur­ing a manic episode, but be un­able to bath a baby and take chil­dren to and from school on a bad day.

She might go from be­ing the su­per mother to sob­bing hys­ter­i­cally un­able to com­mu­ni­cate how she is feel­ing to a hus­band who is stand­ing there not un­der­stand­ing what is go­ing on at all.

It is scary. A hus­band suf­fer­ing from sub­stance abuse might stay in si­lence, not want­ing to talk to any­one to be­ing vi­o­lent, shout­ing and abu­sive, leav­ing the fam­ily not know­ing what to do.

It is al­ways a time of con­fu­sion, and frus­tra­tions. Oth­ers even go to an ex­tend of blam­ing the spouse for the con­di­tion or even hid­ing the con­di­tion be­cause of fear of stigma from ex­tended fam­ily or friends. But this must not be so.

No­body ex­pects you to hide your di­a­betes or epilepsy be­cause you can’t help. You’re safer if the peo­ple around you know about your con­di­tion and help. Why can it not be the same for mental health prob­lems?

Un­for­tu­nately, so­ci­ety has neg­a­tively la­belled mental health prob­lems and that has a con­no­ta­tion that means you need to hide what’s go­ing on in­side you, lest ye be judged. It is time we stop stig­ma­tis­ing mental health prob­lems.

This ar­ti­cle is dis­cussing what you can do if you think your hus­band or wife may be suf­fer­ing from mental health prob­lem or a ner­vous break­down?

How do you know? How can you tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween a se­ries of bad days and a real prob­lem that needs pro­fes­sional in­ter­ven­tion?

The sim­ple an­swer: it is not easy. But you shouldn’t ig­nore your gut in­stincts ei­ther.

When you no­tice some­thing very dif­fer­ent in be­hav­iour, thoughts and emo­tions of your loved one, then you need to seek help.

Here is what you can do to main­tain a healthy re­la­tion­ship, rather than have your re­la­tion­ship over­whelmed and di­rected by mental dis­or­ders:

a) Con­front him or her, gen­tly, about it. Say what you see as dif­fer­ent chang­ing. What be­hav­iour change or emo­tions you have been notic­ing in your spouse.

b) Make an ap­point­ment with your med­i­cal doc­tor to rule out any phys­i­cal or or­ganic cause of the symptoms. Then visit a psy­chother­a­pist, psy­chol­o­gist, pro­fes­sional coun­sel­lor or psy­chi­atric doc­tor for psy­chother­apy or med­i­ca­tion if nec­es­sary.

c) Make full use of your spir­i­tual re­sources and take time to talk to your spir­i­tual men­tors

d) Show your love and care and try to go to the doc­tor TO­GETHER for help. Of­fer all the nec­es­sary sup­port.

e) Know the mental dis­or­der and learn about treat­ment op­tions and ways to re­cover. Hav­ing a mental dis­or­der is con­fus­ing for every­one in­volved. You might think your spouse is be­ing ir­ri­ta­ble, dis­tant or dis­tracted. But th­ese sup­posed char­ac­ter flaws might re­ally be symptoms of the mental dis­or­der. Also, make sure your part­ner is re­ceiv­ing treat­ment , be it psy­chother­apy or med­i­ca­tion or both.

f) Learn how to help and avoid blam­ing. “Learn from a mental health pro­fes­sional what role you might be able to play in the treat­ment plan,” Not know­ing how you can help can be frus­trat­ing for both part­ners. Find out how you can best sup­port your spouse dur­ing his or her treat­ment.

g) Work on your mar­riage as you would with­out the mental ill­ness in­trud­ing. “Honor and care for your mar­riage as you would with­out the pres­ence of the mental ill­ness. “cou­ples fail to at­tend to their mar­riage through dat­ing, talk­ing and shar­ing, cre­at­ing feel­ings of iso­la­tion, which com­pounds the stress of the ill­ness it­self.” Do not stop lov­ing and car­ing

h) Main­tain pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

i) Check in with each other. Every week, sit to­gether and talk about your “needs and in­ten­tions Healthy cou­ples “spend a large amount of their fo­cus on ap­pre­ci­at­ing their part­ners for even the small­est things.”

j) Prac­tice self- care reg­u­larly.

Don’t ig­nore the signs be­cause mental health prob­lems are ev­ery­where around us. Many peo­ple get the help they need and have per­fectly happy nor­mal lives. So please get help, help is avail­able what are you wait­ing for?

◆ Dr Mazvita Machinga is a qual­i­fied mental health pro­fes­sional and psy­chother­a­pist based in Mutare . Con­tact her at 0771 754 519 or email pcc­s­man­i­ca­land@ gmail. com for fur­ther help and coun­sel­ing

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