Should You Ask About Mental Health History When Dating?

Young African American couple flirtingThe signs aren’t always clear to see when you first start dating someone. Heck, you can’t even tell what a person is truly about if you’ve been dating them for months and maybe years. Who knows what truly goes on in the hearts and minds of people. They say actions speak louder than words, but what if your significant other doesn’t display any signs of mental health issues?

The tragic death of Julia Martin at the hands of her ex-fiancee brought up some interesting questions about knowing the mental health history of your loved one. The father of Martin said the now deceased ex-fiancee Nick Harvey showed no signs of being dangerous before killing his daughter. So how does a person just randomly commit such a vicious act out of nowhere? According to the brother of Harvey, he’s had a documented history of diagnosed mental health issues. One has to ask was Mr. Harvey forthcoming about his challenges and did Ms. Martin know the extent of them?

BlackDoctor.org spoke with Chicago-based clinical therapist Kyla M. Gordon to see if we could give our readers a mental health screening process before they decide to date someone.

BlackDoctor.org: Is it possible to check someone’s mental health history without asking them directly?

Kyla Gordon: In short, no. Both snooping around and asking about someone’s mental health history is just as intrusive as researching and inquiring [about] someone’s physical health history. Both are private and confidential personal information. People living with a mental illness want to be able to know and trust the person they’re with before they feel comfortable in sharing such fragile information.

BlackDoctor.org: What are signs to watch out for when evaluating someone’s mental health when you first meet them?

Kyla Gordon: More people are living with an undiagnosed mental illness than diagnosed because let’s face it, we have all dealt with some type of depression, inattentiveness, or anxiety in some point in our lives. There are many people coping with mental illness and are living successful lives because they understand their triggers, utilize coping skills or they are on a medication regimen that works for them. When it negatively impacts our daily lives where the inability to function is significant, that’s when it becomes noticed by loved ones and the outside world.

Here are some, but not all of the more severe symptoms of mental illness to be aware of:

Psychosis: an impaired loss of contact with reality; i.e. seeing, hearing, feeling, or smelling something that isn’t there

Mania: elevated mood, inflated self esteem, decreased need for sleep, difficulty paying attention, racing thoughts