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The Importance of Having a Support System

Recovery is a personal journey with the goals of hope, empowerment and autonomy. And for many people with mental health challenges, recovery is often possible.

Many factors contribute to recovery, including having a good support system of people that you like, respect and trust. They can be family members, friends, teachers, faith leaders, neighbors or peers — what’s important is that you have people you feel comfortable talking to about what you’re experiencing and support you may need.

Research has shown that having a social support system can have a positive impact on your overall mental health, especially for women, older adults, patients, workers and students. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 was “a great deal of stress” and one is “little or no stress,” a 2015 survey found that the average stress level for people with emotional support in place was 5 out of 10 compared to 6.3 out of 10 for people without emotional support.

Having a few people you trust and can turn to can help you manage everyday challenges, make difficult decisions, or even during a crisis situation.

It can also combat social isolation and loneliness, both of which can put you at higher risk for physical and mental health issues including high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression and more.

If you don’t have this right now, that’s okay. Use these tips from the American Psychological Association to help build and strengthen your support network:

  1. Reach out to family and friends. Simply saying hello or offering to help with a task can spark conversation.
  2. Use technology. Connect with people far away via email, text messaging or video calls.
  3. Connect with people who share your interests. Join a club, volunteer at a local organization or take a class to help meet people who share your likes and interests.
  4. Look for peer support groups. If you are facing a personal challenge, consider joining a peer support group to help take care of your mental health and connect with people who are facing something similar.
  5. Ask for help. Reach out to your local library, place of worship, or community center to learn more about local events you may want to attend or groups you may want to join.

Remember that everyone’s support system will look different. They can be anywhere from one to 10 people and include diverse people from different areas of your life. And they take time to build.

It’s also important to take care of your own mental health and well-being in the process. Use self-care strategies and tips from the Mental Health First Aid curriculum to take care of yourself while also building a network around you.