Mental Health Awareness Month: Addressing Mental Illness in Relationships – Part IV

May 31st


Health mind, mental health important for relationships

When was the last time you had a conversation with a loved one about mental health? In today’s world of social media, people share about themselves and their lives constantly, with the click of a button. And yet a stigma exists about mental health that can make many people uncomfortable addressing the topic. This week, in part IV of our series for Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ll explore ways to decrease the stigma around mental illness and empower people to take care of this crucial aspect of their health. Our tips will give you the words to start an open, honest dialogue.

The Gist

The stigma surrounding mental health still persists in today’s society, as does the stigma surrounding divorce and separation from a parenting partner. Both stigmas can be harmful and counterproductive.

Having honest, open conversations about mental health helps to decrease stigma. If you, your co- parent, or a loved one are battling mental illness, consider talking about it with a trusted confidante. You can educate about mental health, discuss concerns, and brainstorm possible solutions in these conversations.

Before you conduct the conversation, consider factors such as timing, location, and audience. Use “I-phrases” and a neutral tone, describe what you see happening, and make your intent clear.

When talking to children, use age-appropriate, factual information. Reassure them that they’re loved and safe and that you are taking care of yourself.


The intent of mental health awareness month is to educate, empower, and decrease stigma around mental health issues. But why does this stigma exist in the first place? And how can it complicate the lives of co-parents in particular? Let’s break down some of the possible factors in our societal biases against mental illness and those who suffer from it.

  • Societal expectations: Whether we realize it consciously or not, society sends us messages that impact how we perceive and handle emotions and their expression. At times, our society has valued stoicism; some widely known examples include “Tough it out,” and “Don’t let them see you cry.” This can convey disapproval of openly discussing struggle or pain and utilizes shame as a motivational tool. Furthermore, the popular concept of “you can be whatever you want to be” projects the belief that success is truly related to an individual’s level of motivation and persistence. While the idea that each person is in charge of his/her destiny does have positive effects, and may even be partly true in some instances, it can also be harmful. This indirectly teaches that, if you “want it badly enough,” you should be able to push through any struggles with your mood or mindset. Similarly, it can also promote the idea that a person’s battle with mental illness (substance use, eating disorders, self-harm, etc.) reflects their lack of desire to “get better.”
  • Fictionalized/stereotyped presentation: The portrayal of mental illness in popular culture (movies, books, tv shows, songs, etc.) presents an at times exaggerated, fictionalized version of people’s experiences. This can spread misinformation or misunderstanding amongst the general public.
  • Gender roles: Societal expectations of men and women can cross over into mental health. Adages such as “boys don’t cry” or “girls are too dramatic” can shape children’s experience of their own emotions and impact their behavior regarding their mental health as adults.
  • “Invisible” symptoms: There is much about our inner world that is harder to pinpoint and study, and that we know less about. Physical symptoms are easier for us to see and therefore make sense of; for example, we can tell if someone clutches their chest and turns red that they’re in pain, or if they’re limping that they’re injured somehow. Mental symptoms, however, can be more vague and aren’t always visible on the outside. This lack of information can get in the way of our awareness of and empathy for mental illness.
  • Generational:Over time, our understanding of mental health- of its importance in our overall well-being, and how to best nurture it- has grown. Years ago, the predominant approach toward child-rearing placed greater value on being “seen and not heard” as children. This type of parenting prioritizes blind obedience over independent thought and expression. With time and further research, we have learned more about the importance of respecting people’s thoughts and emotions from childhood onward. Little by little the conversation about mental illness increased and the youth of today generally talk more openly and frequently about mental health.

Double Jeopardy for Co-Parents?

As we’ve stated above, mental illness affects many people across the globe and yet a bias surrounding it still persists. Divorce (or separation) is similar; it is very common in today’s world but still carries a stigma along with it. According to a recent study, almost half of divorced people believe their lives to be impacted by stigma, and women are twice as likely to feel shame than men (source). Many co-parents feel a sense of guilt and failure surrounding the demise of their romantic relationship. They may also feel out of place amongst their married/coupled peers who parent from the same household. Meanwhile, co-parents who are also coping with mental illness deal with negativity on both ends. They may struggle with shame and poor self-image, and/or may also face prejudice from others for being separated and for having mental health issues.

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC


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  2. Detrice Batten says:

    Hi there- Thanks for the support. We will be in touch soon! Continue to join the conversation each week.

  3. […] Steps to Synchronize Your Co-Parenting Discipline Mental Health Awareness Month: Addressing Mental Illness in Relationships Not Your Parents’ Discipline: How Parenting Has Changed… The Power of Boundary-Setting in […]

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