Reprinted from the "Couples" issue of Visions Journal, 2015, 10 (4), p. 4
Couples, Spouses, Partners, Significant Others—whatever terms you prefer, this issue of Visions looks at mental health and substance use experiences in the context of our romantic/intimate relationships. It was the winner in our last reader poll. And, well, it’s about time.
It’s easy to forget that this issue of Visions is part of our ongoing commitment to look at some aspect of the theme of families every eight issues. Why? Because ‘families’ in our sector is often shorthand for parents and their children (including adult children). But there are many other family relationships. Couple relationships—along with siblings, friends, extended families—are pretty invisible. Yet for some groups and some conditions, spousal caregivers are actually the dominant supporters (dementia and postpartum depression are just two obvious examples). So how can we forget the vast numbers of people living with mental illness or substance use problems who are also spouses and partners? And their partners? How can we forget that that relationship affects the well-being of everyone in a family—in both helpful and potentially harmful ways?
The last time we looked at anything in this area was a 1999 issue of Visions called Sexuality, Intimacy and Relationships. What came out in that issue 16 years ago perhaps gives us a clue to why intimate relationships are still neglected when we talk about recovery, families and well-being. Maybe somewhere there is still a seed in our service system and society that romantic relationships, sex, intimacy, are either not important to people with mental illness and addictions…or too difficult…or more of a luxury. Our poll results disprove that.
Our Mind/Body issue recently challenged us to look at the whole person physically. Well, this issue challenges us to look at the whole person socially. Social support and relationships are central to human happiness. And they take hard work. So in the coming pages let’s talk about not just living with mental illness but loving with mental illness. It’s time.