The Importance of Community for Our Mental Health.

Those with mental illnesses are often left feeling isolated from others. This makes the creation of a supportive and safe community all the more important.

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!

Image from Nathan Dumlao

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.

Image from Elevate

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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  1. What a poignant article. The pandemic has shown we need a community to survive emotionally.

  2. Our mental health is indeed very important aspect of our healthy life. We really need to take care of it especially during this difficult situation nowadays.

  3. Community is such an important thing. I love living in a place where we have a sense of community, to be part of things and know the people around you. Totally makes sense that it is a big part of mental health.

  4. I agree with this. Community is as equally important as family and friends when it comes to this matter. It’s always important to surround yourself with people who will offer nothing but positivity. Thank you for sharing

  5. Oh I really hope I can find one that fits me. I would definitely make time for it if I found one.

  6. it is really important that you have a support group when you deal with mental health issues. it helps a lot to know that there are people who are willing to help you get through it..

  7. I loved the way you described it: a problem shared is a problem halved. It’s so true! It helps to have the support and empathy of others.

  8. this is an important message. especially during these times when we’re isolating and avoiding crowds, friends and loved ones it’s critical for our peace of mind to stay connected.

  9. I think the value of community cannot be overstated. Humans are social beings. We need to be in contact with one another.

  10. It is crucial to know the importance of community for our mental health. I have chronic illness, and having that support system can really help. To feel that you are not alone, and someone can understand everything you are going through will boost you mentally and emotionally.

  11. We have a support system if we belong to a community. Doing things together is empowerment.

  12. I agree with all these benefits. Finding and joining in a mother’s community helps me a lot. It helps me grow more as a mother and as a person.

  13. This is such a great article. Its extremely important for people to have that community and support.

  14. Community makes a difference! It can go a long way toward finding support and it’s much easier today thanks to the internet- you can search for and find a community that fits you. I often wonder what life would have been like for me as a young person if the internet had been around. It would have made a definite difference!

  15. This is great. I have suffered from depression and anxiety and as an empath I have to be careful what I expose myself to. Just thinking about makes me anxious.

  16. I need to look into this further. I have had such a hard time finding a community to trust and fall back on during my times of need.

  17. To feel yourself part of something bigger and strive for the benefit of others always is awakening. I do think things like that uplift and help to be present at the moment and live life fully.

  18. Thank you so much for reading. Friends are great and they can really help us, but sometimes we just need people who understand us.

  19. I know what you mean by leading more isolated lives. I for one feel very isolated, even when among people. I suspect it’s because I tend to close myself off for fear of being unable to control my emotions. But I’m making a conscious effort to put myself out there more.
    Thank you for reading!

  20. It’s great that you had someone to turn to when you were feeling like that. We do need to make an effort to reach out to people as it’s so easy to just let it fester. People and friends in general are there for us, and we might as well use them.
    Thank you so much for popping in and reading.

  21. I agree – you can not be healthy mentally without healthy community. Great post to remember you are never fully alone (and it is not always about good things)

  22. The power of groups is so underrated. Solidarity is so important in a mental health aspect. You can feel so alone when you’re going through something heavy. Having other people around that empathize with you is invaluable.

  23. I agree that community is so important! When I was depressed and feeling low, I didn’t really want to be around anyone. But thankfully, I had one friend who kept calling and checking in on me.she never gave up on trying to reach out to me, even when I tried to push her away. She also shared with me her struggles with depression

  24. Community is a powerful thing. Having community means you are not alone, and we never are. Community means we are with people who understand us or who are willing to understand us. Community encourages opening up and letting go, and following in the footsteps of those who have done the same.
    A problem shared, as you say, is a problem halved!

  25. I agree, community is very important. Being around people who I could talk to has always helped me a lot. I think we should encourage that!

  26. You are right that having community around you of any type that understands what you are going through is critical. And I love the idea of the chronic wellness club. I wish Ali much success with this endeavor!

  27. I think that community is important, they can really help you. Health is also to stay good with people you are happy with. – Paolo

  28. This is a lovely post! I’ve been thinking recently about the connection to mental well-being and community. Humans used to live more communal lives…it’s more natural for us be in groups. But nowadays we just tend to live more isolated lives, and it has an impact on our happiness and mental well-being The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve prioritized face time with friends and family, and it’s really helped to increase my happiness and peace of mind. I’m trying to build a community around me, though it’s not always easy. Thank you for sharing this post!

  29. I have often struggled with having people around me who don’t fully understand mental health issues – I have a lot of loving friends and family who support me but it can be so useful to speak to people who understand it, either from working with people who have mental health issues, or from suffering themselves.

  30. I can attest that having people to talk to in times of crises, or even when you’re not in crisis, is a really wonderful benefit to your mental health. Thank you for sharing this.

  31. I think it’s just important to know you aren’t alone. I remember when I was going through my divorce I was embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to know. But. I then began blogging about it and I found out I helped others. It made me feel that what I was going through was not for nothing AND it helped me to help others as well.

  32. I work as a psychotherapist and researcher and we’re actually doing a major project on how community increases resilience and positive health outcomes and also decreases crime. So important for us all to have a sense of community.

  33. That’s really wonderful. Community is crucial. I have found help in my community for mental health issues. In fact, that’s part of the reason we love living here!

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