Humans are social beings by nature. Most mental health providers will agree that perceived social support is an extremely important aspect of psychological health. Having strong social support can help us to cope with stress and improve our motivation to work toward our goals. When experiencing significant distress, leaning on our social support system for comfort can be a helpful step to finding respite.
Still, in times of crisis it can be normal to feel alone and push people away. Many of us have faced at least one experience in our life that led us to feel that no one else could possibly understand what we were going through. However, it is likely that there are other people in your community who could relate to your stressors on some level. Knowing that others have experienced similar feelings can help to reduce the feelings of isolation that often occur during distress. Feeling like you have people in your life who you can count on and who can understand your worries can be a mitigating factor as to whether your stress develops into a larger mental health concern.
One way to increase your social support, especially support targeted to a specific concern or topic, is to join a support group. Support groups come in various forms, including in-person, telephone, online, and virtual. They can be facilitated by a mental health or medical professional, or by a peer. Support groups can be an excellent way to grow your social support network. The main goal of a support group is to provide a social outlet for individuals who share a common experience, for example grief or a medical/mental health diagnosis, to talk about and process their experience.
Major benefits of joining a support group include:
- Creating a safe space where you can talk openly about your emotions free from the fear of judgement.
- Sharing strategies for coping, as well as learning the strategies that other people have used successfully.
- Developing a support network that holds you accountable for your healing.
- Having relationships with other people who understand and appreciate your experience and can help you to devise solutions.
- Hearing other people’s stories and being able to relate to their experiences with a specific shared concern.
- Reducing feelings of isolation and/or loneliness that may accompany stressful experiences.
- Regaining feelings of power and control in what may have previously made you feel powerless and ‘out of control.’
- Learning from someone who has ‘been there’ in addition to medical and mental health advice from professionals.
For information on the support groups being offered at Caring Communities, please use the following link: https://caringpa.org/services/case-management/.
Although support groups can be a fantastic option for many people who are seeking support, they are not right for everyone. Some people prefer to speak with a therapist or counselor individually. Psychology Today is a great resource for locating providers in your area. If you need help finding a mental health treatment option that is right for you, please contact your case manager for assistance.