Today is World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2019, and as the general awareness about mental health issues increases, it seems appropriate that we become a little introspective and look at how we as individuals may have been affected by this illness. Either knowingly or unknowingly, we all have family, friends, colleagues, peers or acquaintances who have suffered as a result of an illness of the mind, be it through depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or the symptomatic illness of addiction. Of course there are more severe forms of mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which may require hospital treatment and/or heavy medication. However, these tend to be much more visible to the outsider, whereas depression, anxiety and PTSD are far less visible and still remain largely undiagnosed and untreated.
Mental health issues can be very complex and someone who is experiencing mental health problems might be suffering in silence. Aside from the social stigma that is still attached to some forms of illnesses of the mind, the person suffering may feel so detached and unwell in their mind, body and spirit that they are simply unable to articulate their emotions. Many individuals who experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, despair or emptiness, are unable to explain where these feelings are coming from.
As a family lawyer of some twenty years, I feel it is my responsibility to highlight how mental health issues can impact relationships. Trauma, abuse, coercive control, or unhealthy dynamics within the context of a marriage or partnership, sometimes leads to issues of co-dependence, low self-esteem, depression, addiction, and in extreme cases, suicidal ideation. People often become stuck in the same unhealthy cycles and patterns of negative behaviour until they embark on a programme of self-care, putting their own needs first in order to enable them to care better for the needs of their family. Sometimes the partner or spouse of the person suffering from mental health challenges is unable to support them in their quest to change patterns of old unhealthy behaviour. The partner or spouse may even be the cause or trigger of these mental health problems. If this is the case, the only solution is to seek advice and guidance to help break out of these situations.
With my background in counselling and my knowledge of alternative therapies, I strongly believe in addressing the needs of the mind, body and spirit as well as dealing with the practicalities and financial implications of a relationship breakdown. My aim is to adopt a holistic approach in the resolution of relationship matters and I am able to empathise and identify with the journey my clients are going through. I enable clients to see the bigger picture so that they can envisage a life of value and meaning beyond the breakdown of a relationship.
To me it is also vital to try to handle the case in as sensitive a manner as possible as this can have far-reaching effects in terms of re-establishing healthier boundaries between the separating couple. This is especially important where parties need to co-parent their children.
Of course it is not always realistic for parties to remain amicable, especially where there has been a long history of abuse or mistreatment in a marriage or relationship. In these circumstances my advice would be to obtain an outcome which serves in the client’s best interests (and those of any children of the family), whilst giving the client time, space and energy to attend to their long-term mental health needs.
If my ethos resonates with you and you are in a difficult predicament in your family affairs, please contact me for an initial consultation.
Keshini Rajendra, Head of the Family Department
Heald’s team of family law specialists are available to help you during this difficult period guiding you through your negotiation. If you would like to discuss your situation why not book a fixed fee meeting with our family team on 01908 662277
You may also be interested in reading our blog on coercive contol