Support Networks Impact Mental & Emotional Health
Strong psychological and emotional health as well as solid relationships are key components in a healthy support system. A healthy support system is made up of friends and family that you can trust, do life with and lean on, especially in times of need and crisis. During times of stress, these are the people that give you strength to keep moving forward.
Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between one’s social support and different aspects of health and wellness.
Usually, when a poor social network is present, mental illness is also present. Examples of these are depression, anxiety, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, suicide, etc. 1 However, the inverse is true as well. When strong support networks are present there is a decrease in instances of mental illness.
There are numerous benefits to having a social support network. Not only does it increase our ability to cope with stressful situations and alleviate the effects of emotional distress, social support networks can promote good mental health, enhance our self-esteem and even reduce physical symptoms. A support network can also encourage us to choose healthy coping behaviors and improve our motivation to get better – this is especially true of peer support, as talking to people who have gone through the same experiences that you are going through is a source of empathy and provides hope for your own recovery journey. They will also understand what you are going through, while family and friends, despite being loving and supportive, may not. This can lead to you feeling less isolated and alone and they can offer tips and advice for how to deal with your issues based on their own lived experience.2
Practicing religious and spiritual disciplines can also provide a sense of agency by being proactive when life seems out of control.
Those individuals who have a connection with God tend to turn to their faith while in distress or crisis. Regular engagement in prayer, church attendance and Bible study are some ways to ease mental illness, and being a part of a faith community is essential in being a buffer as it relates to stress.
As compared to people who don’t engage in religious and spiritual practices, those who do so feel closer to God, tend to be more equipped to cope with stress, and report a variety of improvements such as feeling happier, experiencing improved self-esteem, having hope or being certain of their purpose in life. Some also feel they are more resilient for having gone through the trials of life, which have resulted in greater life satisfaction, and spiritual growth.3
Always remember that God is for us and He will never leave us or forsake us. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:1-2.
By Jameson Francis
LPC and Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church Music Director
1American Psychological Association. Manage Stress: Strengthen Your Support Network