Mental Health Awareness Day. A Marriage Under Pressure


With World Mental Health Awareness Day on October 10, Rachael Scharrer, founder of online resource shares her personal perspective and recommendations when leaving a marriage that has concerns with mental health.

When I separated in 2012, I knew that I did everything I could to try to get my husband help. The challenge with mental health is that it isn’t a tangible issue and there are ebbs and flows. More pitfalls than positive moment in my marriage. My husband (at the time) had never been formally diagnosed because he convincingly lies and can ‘keep it together’ in front of professionals for an extended period.

I noticed his issues with alcohol, anger management and depression. A clinical psychiatrist told me that she believed he was a clinical psychopath. In my own research, he also met the criterion for a pathological narcissist and for borderline personality disorder. He has been in and out of rehab … many times.

I tried changing the way that I approached him, spoke with him, I asked him to tell me what to do when I knew he was escalating so that we could stop before he ‘exploded.’ Nothing I did could change who he was and how he was behaving.

We were moving home and he told me he wouldn’t sign for the mortgage and repeatedly told me “you’re going to trap me in debt and leave me.” It wasn’t further from the truth or my mind. So, I told him that unless he attended marriage counselling then he wasn’t moving into the new home. By the way, we never got that mortgage together and I had to scramble to get things in order.

He used to break up with me all the time, four times each year. He went AWOL once a month for the weekend and would tantrum at least once a week. We fought almost every day. So, the day came when he broke up with me (yet again) in the week between marriage counselling visits. I reflected on my two children (aged 18 months and 3.5 years at the time) and realised that they were displaying inappropriate attitudes and behaviours for children of their age. My choices were keeping them in an unhealthy environment. This day and this realisation changed my future… for the better. I accepted his break-up and commenced the winding up of the relationship.

For individuals in a challenging marriage involving mental health who are unsure what to do and whether they want to say in the marriage is:

  1. Start documenting/diarising dates, times and screenshots of calls/SMS and other incidents. I emailed myself and dragged the email into a separate folder. I would also change the password on your phone/email/computer so that someone else never has access to it. Alternatively, consider diarising by using a newly established email address
  2. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Check out the free Separation Checklist and ensure that you have the important documents (marriage certificate, birth certificates, passports, heirlooms etc) in a safe space (outside of the house)
  3. Seek assistance. Encourage your spouse to seek ongoing treatment from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist (yes, make sure it is a doctor, not counsellor) and attend any other courses/classes/groups to assist with the concerns
  4. Invest in the marriage. Encourage your spouse to attend marriage/couples counselling with you so that you can talk in a safe space about the marriage, concerns etc
  5. Assist yourself. You should seek some counselling to make sure you are alright and an appropriate person who can offer you some strategy to implement
  6. Get educated. If things don’t work out, which I don’t wish upon anyone, then download the ‘how to best separate: Mental Health’ e-book. It has lots of tips on separating with someone with mental health concerns
  7. Professional advice. Ultimately, you will need some legal advice. So, use the Separation Checklist, gather your documents, fill out your Separation Statement and make an appointment with a family lawyer.

Please remember that only you will look out for you. Only you can make you happy. When the day comes that you aren’t happy anymore, when your confidence has taken a hit or your intuition tells you ‘it’s time’ … then you need to make some pretty tough decisions.

Divorce Answered’s e-book ‘How to best separate: Mental Health’ is available for only $15.


This is general advice only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer and/or accountant before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. cannot provide legal advice. If you have an emergency situation, please contact Emergency '000'. © Divorce Pty Ltd