Saturday, 13 February 2016

Mental Health and Social Support

 It comes as no surprise to say that we all need support from others, especially during tough times. Think about when you are having a bad day: sometimes all you need is someone to talk to, or someone who can empathize with how you are feeling. At other times, when you are feeling down about yourself, simply knowing that you are loved, that you have a home to go to, etc. makes a huge difference in your ability to cope.

Researchers have now discovered a link between social support levels, mental health, and coping with suicidal or harmful thoughts (read about it here).

Why is this important? What does this add that we didn't already know? Firstly, I think it is wonderful that we have some science to show that social support truly does make a big difference in our lives - and especially mental health. And this makes sense. But it also has further implications for healthcare, treatment, family support, and so on. Imagine what would happen if physicians and healthcare providers spent a little more time supporting their patients and listening to them express their feelings? What about programs where individuals suffering with suicidal tendencies (or any mental health struggle) can openly talk about this and feel supported by others?

On a personal level, we can see how we can use this in our everyday lives. Showing and offering support to others will never go unappreciated. Remember that when someone is struggling or having a tough time, they don't necessarily need advice. What they DO need is someone to listen to them, someone to understand that they are feeling negative or having a hard time. When we feel low, we need to express our emotions and have them validated by others.

The result? Perhaps all our problems will not disappear. Perhaps we will still feel negative or sad or overwhelmed. But, we WILL feel a bit better. We will feel that though this is tough now, we have others around us to help us cope - or at least to offer their love and care to us. It is extremely empowering to feel that we are not alone in our struggles - that others are there for us, and that they care enough about us to show this.

In the end of the day, both offering support and receiving support are some of the best feelings in he world. Giving support to others helps us feel that we are making a difference, and gives us  chance to truly help someone in need. Getting support helps us feel empowered and safe, and gives us a renewed sense of hope that things will get better. It is truly amazing how much of a difference a simple smile, kind gesture, soft word, loving touch, or joke can make. Let's spread the love and support - it is clear that it can have big impacts on our mental health!