One of the best boosts to mental health recovery is a support system. Having people in your life who understand your struggles and provide encouragement and help can make all the difference in how well you manage episodes of anxiety, depression, bipolar, or any other mental health disorder.
But, other than perhaps a family member or close friend or two, support systems don’t just rise up by themselves–they take some effort to gather and sustain. If you’re someone who suffers from a mental health disorder, you will benefit from actively recruiting and nurturing your support system. After all, everyone requires support sometimes, and being able to offer support to those who support you will not only make you feel good about yourself but also make it easier for people to be on your team.
What is a Support Network?
Your support network is made up of professionals and lay people who can help you navigate your mental health issues. Your support network can include:
- Your treatment team: therapist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, etc.
- A spiritual mentor, if you’re so inclined
- People from group therapy
- Family members and friends
- People from online support groups
- Your HR department at work, depending on the situation
While you’ll want to cultivate relationships and trust with people from many of these spheres of life, we’re going to focus this post on family members, friends, and your peers in recovery. These are the people who can provide support and input from day to day. You know–the people in your life who don’t require appointments or payment to interact with them.
It’s this more informal network of people with whom you can develop relationships of mutual nurturing and support.
Characteristics of a Support Network
While you may tend to focus on what your support people can do for you, you’ll want to provide the same support in return. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) lists some of the functions of a support network. As you read this list, think about what your support team does for you–and which of these things you can do for them.
- Gives good advice when asked for it
- Assists you in taking actions to help yourself
- Likes, respects, and trusts you
- Allows you the space to change, grow, make decisions, and make mistakes
- Listens to you and shares with you during good times and bad
- Keeps your conversations confidential
- Validates your feelings and emotions without judging, teasing, or criticizing
- Helps you navigate difficult situations
- Has your best interests in mind
If you’re struggling with a mental health disorder, you might think you aren’t equipped to be giving people advice or helping anyone through a difficult time. But in fact, your experience with pain and anxiety in some ways makes you an ideal teammate. You can understand intense emotions and fears because you’ve been there. You also know how hard it can be to ask for help–which makes you more likely to reach out when you sense someone you love is struggling.
How to Support Those Who Support You
Why is it important to support those who support you? Because the benefits are mutual. In supporting others, you develop feelings of confidence and self-esteem. You understand that people need you as much as you need them.
According to Mental Health First Aid, research shows that a support system has health benefits for everyone, especially 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.”
Here are some ways to show support to those who help take care of you:
- Show appreciation. Say thank you, and mean it.
- Respect their boundaries. If someone says they can’t do a certain thing at a certain time, honor that. Don’t try to convince them to change their mind, even “just this once.”
- Respect their time and availability. Yes, it’s important to be brave enough to ask for help. But it’s also important to respect the time they’re giving you. If they ask you not to call after a certain time except for emergencies, respect that.
- Be available to them–and encourage them to reach out to you. Do your best to show you care and that you can offer them the same support they provide you.
Build Your Support System at Miramont Behavioral Health
If you or a loved one are struggling to stabilize during a mental health crisis, reach out to our team in Middleton, WI. Our compassionate professional team will assess your condition and provide the individualized treatment you need to find your footing. We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment to adults and adolescents dealing with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental health disorders. You’ll feel safe and nurtured with our 24-hour care that includes medication management, group therapy, individual therapy, and family education. As you prepare to return to home and work, we’ll make sure you have in place the resources and support systems in place to help you thrive. To learn more, contact us anytime.