Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

How big a red flag are mental health issues?

(46 Posts)
Notafixer Wed 24-Jul-13 21:09:18

I met a man recently who I really got on well with. We had one of those connections which I've found is really quite rare. We can talk for hours and I feel like we 'get' each other in a way that is important to me.

He was very up-front about the fact that he's just gone through something of a mental health crisis. He's now getting help and is trying to get everything back on track. If you didn't know his circumstances I really don't think you'd guess, he seems remarkably "normal" and is able to talk about his feelings, but not in that way that smacks of someone who has had lots of therapy.

But I'm concerned there are bigger issues going on that I'm not aware of. (Only because I don't see how things can have turned around so well) We've only been on three dates after first meeting at a dinner party and this is still very much best behaviour territory. I'm also not the girlfriend you'd want if you were going through a crisis. I'm very independent selfish and I'm concerned that I won't be able to give him whatever he needs.

Am I being unfair to be put off by mental health issues? I have a very uncomplicated life at the moment where I please myself and have a friend with benefits for when I need more. It makes me happy. I'm not sure I can be trusted to put the energy into making someone else happy.

Dahlen Thu 25-Jul-13 09:06:25

I wouldn't.

I am not an uncaring shallow person. Three of my friends have been through depression and I have supported them in a big way. One of them ended up sectioned for a while. I went the distance and I'd do the same for an established partner as well, but no way would I start a new relationship with someone who had MH issues already.

The exception to that would be mild depression that they have clearly managed to function normally throughout diagnosis and ongoing treatment. I'd also consider dating someone who had past MH issues, depending on what they were, what the circumstances were, and the likelihood of them rearing up again in the future.

MH issues can be very, very hard on relationships of all sorts. What carries you through that is the bond and the good times you had beforehand. You don't have that to fall back on in a new relationship, and unless you have exceptionally good boundaries and they are exceptionally proactive in terms of management of their condition, you run the risk of establishing the relationship on a very unequal footing that will cause no end of problems further down the line.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 25-Jul-13 09:14:23

I would probably avoid. Having been in a relationship previously with someone who experienced frequent 'depressive' episodes (quotation marks because they were never diagnosed or treated) I personally found it very difficult and very damaging, despite having the best intentions. I've been called some horrible names on this board before for suggesting that MH problems might be a deal-breaker.... 'they can't help being ill', which is debatable,.... but if anything at all about someone makes you feel uncomfortable at the outset of a relationship, I think you should trust your judgement rather than take a risk

Branleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 09:16:38

wow, stigma against mental illness still going strong.

happens to 1 in 4 of us. You arent immune

Branleuse, dating someone with an ongoing mental illness can be very hard work. No one is entitled to a relationship and it's not wrong for people to walk away in the early stages for any reason whatsoever. Someone you have had three dates and a shag with is not automatically your ongoing responsibility.

Branleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 09:26:39

of course, but its not a red flag ffs. Its something that affects over a quarter of people statistically in any given year.

Youre not obliged to have a relationship with anyone of course, but mental illness is like any other illness. The stigma here is that it is still assumed to be a sign of a defective personality, rather than a health challenge, that ultimately can lead to a stronger person in many cases.

Redorwhitejusthaveboth Thu 25-Jul-13 09:28:10

Did HE tell you about MH issues or was it mutual friends ? I think it's really important to know exactly what you are dealing with - I have depression managed well with meds and I manage to have a lovely happy life - my ex has deep seated personality issues , chronic lying, huge huge issues that after supporting him for years I had to leave as I couldn't deal with it any longer... Currently he would describe himself as your guy has - but clearly that's not the full picture for him and may be true for your guy.
If I was you I'd be wanting to piece together the jigsaw by meeting friends family and asking lots of questions. If you feel unable to ask the questions then walk away or accept that you may be in for a hugely difficult relationship.

Branleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 09:28:12

i dont think this relationship sounds promising at all, obviously, but i wouldnt put blame at the hands of the guy with the MH history

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 25-Jul-13 09:29:36

I don't think 'defective personality' is what's coming out her. I think people are being realistic about their ability to cope with someone who is sick.

Notafixer Thu 25-Jul-13 09:52:14

This isn't about stigma or stats, it's recognising that this would be a big challenge, especially if problems are ongoing or reoccuring.

He told me about the MH issues. Mutual friends haven't been able to shed that much light as he did a very good job of presenting a happy face to the world until he stopped functioning.

mypussyiscalledCaramel Thu 25-Jul-13 10:01:11

I married a man with horrendous MH issues. I loved the man he was before we did.

I was an extremely happy bunny, but his issues ground me down to the point where I had a kind of breakdown.

I had 'known' him for 2 years before we married, I knew his past AND we had a child together.

I never tried to change him, but I did encourage him to get the help he needed.

I got out after my mini breakdown. That was in 2008 and I am still dealing with depression now because of it.

At least your man has recognised he has a problem and is dealing with it.

I would watch from afar and see if he is a different person once he has it under control.

If he doesn't run like the wind in the opposite direction

Branleuse Thu 25-Jul-13 10:11:08

sure, I get what youre saying, but you wouldnt talk about someone in a wheelchair or someone with cancer as a red flag, even though that would be difficult to deal with and not for everyone too

Twinklestein Thu 25-Jul-13 10:14:54

I don't see that not to want to date someone who is ill either mentally or physically is stigmatising either.

I've been not been mentally ill but I've been physically ill. I chose not to date anyone until I was completely well, and I think it's easier to deal with health issues alone without added complications. Relationships cannot help but add stress.

Some people can cope with mental health issues in a partner & some can't. I think choosing not to want to deal with them is perfectly reasonable.

I would be wary of being effectively a crutch or a proof to himself that he's 'ok' now.

Dahlen Thu 25-Jul-13 10:24:58

I wouldn't choose to date someone who had cancer or a significant physical illness either. I would have nothing but compassion for them and I certainly wouldn't refer to either of those things, or MH problems, as a 'red flag', but I wouldn't want to date them. That's opening yourself up knowingly for a whole world of heartache and practical difficulties - something which you have to think about very carefully not only in terms of your own ability to withstand it, but also the effects on your children if you have any.

Of course sometimes you meet people through your normal social circle and love just develops, and in the context of a loving, established relationship I would expect these things to be weathered, but I wouldn't sign up for any of those things with someone who was basically a complete stranger to me to start off with.

Latara Thu 25-Jul-13 10:27:43

This thread is pretty worrying to me.

I have men asking me out and i'm actually in recovery from a Psychotic episode, linked to major depression.

I think they'd be shocked if they knew the truth because I seem really 'normal' now, only a few months later.

In fact I'm not planning on being honest about my illness unless I get to know them for several months!

Also I have epilepsy and people can be funny about that too.

I want children soon so I need a man to think i'm ok. What do I do about this?!

Dahlen Thu 25-Jul-13 10:28:11

I don't see how that's stigmatising. I call it self-preservation. I would have no hesitation offering a job to someone who had MH problems or a physical illness provided they could actually do the job. Jobs have defined roles and expectations that encourage people to live up to them in a way that just doesn't apply in the context of personal relationships IMO.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 25-Jul-13 10:30:55

"I want children soon so I need a man to think i'm ok. What do I do about this?!"

Be honest. Be yourself. Like everyone else on the planet, the 'right' partner is the one that loves us warts and all. If they can't cope with the information, they're not the right one for you.

Dahlen Thu 25-Jul-13 10:33:16

Latara - I agree it's pretty hard on someone in your situation. Your problems make you no less valid or wonderful a person and I'm sorry you're struggling with them. I wish you all the best for a speedy recovery and continued health.

If you take the risk of getting to know them for several months before being truthful, either one of two things will happen:
1. They'll have got to know you and may well decide that they're happy to cope with any issues that may arise from your illness.
2. They'll feel distrustful of you because of "lies by omission" and decide to call it off.
Decent men may do either. Bad men may well choose response number one but berate you all the time with response number 2. I hope your depression is now managed to an extent where your self-protective instincts have kicked in well enough to spot those sorts of predators.

I don't know what the answer is. I can imagine how it feels to be rejected, but everyone has the right to decide on what they can and cannot cope with in a relationship. I imagine some people really wouldn't care, so it's to be hoped that you find one of those. I wish you luck.

Twinklestein Thu 25-Jul-13 10:49:13

@Latara:

It's perfectly possible to find someone who can accept your health issues. Like I said, some people can cope with health issues & some can't. But it's always better to be upfront.

A friend of mine didn't tell an ex-bf that she had a hormone disorder that means cannot have her own children, until several months into the relationship, by which time he was already in love with her.

Did he decide he loved her anyway & stick by her? He tried for a while, and in the end he dumped her as he felt couldn't trust her 100% as she withheld something so serious, & because he wanted his partner's kids not an egg donor's. She wasted nearly 2 years.

If your health is going to be a deal breaker for someone it's better to know sooner rather than later no?

I think the best way to decide when/if to tell a new date/partner about any major physical or mental health issues you have is the point when you have got to know him/her well enough to decide that s/he is desirable as a longterm partner. Don't forget that having a problem of some kind doesn't mean you should be 'grateful' for anyone who agrees to date you. 'Full disclosure' on the first date is excessive, because you don't really know, in the early stages, if this new partner is someone who you can trust with sensitive subjects, or whether s/he is going to point and laugh, or run round telling everybody that you have MH problems/malformed genitals/are transgender or whatever. If you decide after a coule of dates that you don't want to pursue the relationship, it doesn't matter if the other person doesn't know everything about you.

ThePlEWhoLovedMe Thu 25-Jul-13 16:35:54

I agree with some other posters. It isn't the HM symptoms but the cause of them that I would be wary of and the persons ability to understand and manage them.

Notafixer Thu 25-Jul-13 18:32:43

Based on indications so far his ability to manage them sounds good but I need more info on the cause.

I have to say, I think I'm disappointed how realistic people are about the challenges. Part of me hoped lots of people would tell me it was all fine!

I'm putting a lot of thought into why I'm drawn to the men I've always been drawn to and I think that's making me over-sensitive about avoiding anyone troubled. I've got a tendency to think all brilliant or ambitious people have a flaw and that probably tees me up for less than ideal situations. I'm not without my own issues, I'm starting to think I should look for average and robust to ground me.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now