Do you know about the benefits community can have on our mental health?
Both our mental and physical health has a huge impact on our quality of life. While our physical health remains largely looked after by our local physicians, our mental health can be a different story. Quite often those with mental or chronic illnesses are left feeling isolated from society for a variety of reasons. This makes the creation of a supportive and safe community all the more important.
As naturally social creatures, humans need the comfort and support of other humans in order to thrive. Social support influences our overall psychological wellbeing and can play a significant role in the reduction of mental illness symptoms.
Instances of loneliness are greater among those who suffer from mental illness due in large to smaller social circles. In fact, service users experience smaller social networks and greater feelings of isolation than those in the general population. Various studies have confirmed the relationship between loneliness and instances of depression, suicidal ideation, and psychosis.
It’s no surprise that community and social relationships are extremely important when it comes to living with a mental illness. Communities often allow us a connection with people who accept us for who we are and are willing to support us. With it, community brings feelings of warmth, belonging, and even safety.
How can I find a community?
Like many things, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and community can mean different things. It’s important to remember that how a person chooses to achieve their social interaction is a personal preference.
There are many different ways for us to find our tribe. A community can be found through similar interests, beliefs, hobbies, experiences, locations, etc. Better still, social interaction with others can be obtained both off and online, meaning that we’re now closer than ever before!
Communities aren’t just beneficial for those with mental illness, but they’re also very important for the development of children. Check out this post for more information.
Why is community so important?
Communities allow us to feel like we belong.
Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? Me too. It’s a pretty lonely feeling and can be made even worse if we feel like no one really ‘gets us‘.
When we find a community of people who understand what we’ve gone through it can be a really big relief. Even finding people who enjoy the same things can be life-changing. Having a community where we feel like we belong can do wonders for our confidence, self-esteem, and overall wellbeing.
When you truly feel like you belong you can be your authentic self. You don’t feel like you need to change in order to appease anyone, and really, why should you?
They give us a sense of purpose.
When you’re within a community you can fill certain roles. Maybe you’re the mother hen or the creative one. Or perhaps you’re the one everyone goes to for advice. Having roles to fill can give us a sense of purpose within a community. We feel useful and therefore we’re motivated to carry on.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
It’s always wonderful to have someone to go to when we’re feeling stuck or ‘low.‘ Being part of a community means having people to go to. You can ask for support and give it in return without the fear of being judged.
A prime example of a supportive community could be the Mental Health Community on Twitter. It might even be a local support group. When we’re able to ask for help with the knowledge that our comrades want to support us, we feel safe and even loved. Being able to openly share out concerns allows for better problem solving, and may even have the potential to reduce instances of suicide and self-harm.
Contributes to the reduction of feelings of loneliness.
For those with mental and chronic illness feelings of loneliness are often high. Sometimes we feel like those around us don’t quite understand, leaving us standing out in the cold, alone with our illness.
Being part of a community of people who understand us can dispel feelings of loneliness. You can nip down to your local support group or even hop online to a weekly meeting, and suddenly you don’t feel so alone.
They can reduce the development/impact of mental illness.
Having a supportive community from a young age can help hinder the development of serious, lifelong mental illness. Those who have an adequate support group are less likely to internalise thoughts and feelings that others might find ‘irrational’ or ‘silly.’ When you feel comfortable within a group or a community, you’re more likely to voice your concerns and receive support. The alternative is bottling them up, pushing them down, and then dealing with them later when they’ve grown so big that they’re nearly impossible to tackle.
For those of us already dealing with the consequences of our buried emotions, having people to go to can reduce symptoms of depression by tackling isolation. As mentioned, they also give us a safe space to discuss our concerns and allow us to readily reach out for help.
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