Why Social Connection is Important for Your Mental Health
Experiencing mental health challenges can feel isolating, especially for those struggling for the first time. They may feel like they are completely alone in their struggles and not know where to turn for help. Social connection is one source of support people can look to for help coping with mental health challenges. During the initial quarantine for the Covid-19 pandemic, countless people felt the impact of having their social connections limited. For youth, who are at the stage of development where peer relationships are often the most important in their lives, they particularly struggle with not being able to see their friends. Social connection is a key part of maintaining our mental health and a resource for coping with mental health challenges that may arise. Here are some areas that people can look to to find social connection:
- Family can be a source of support for those dealing with mental health challenges. This is particularly true for youth. Youth who know that their parents are safe for them to go to and discuss their problems are more likely to open up and ask for help. Family support can also be important during a person’s transition from home to college. During my undergraduate degree I spent a lot of time with my brother’s family, cuddling my baby twin nephews. For me, baby cuddles were my way of distressing and coping with the demands of being a full time college student.
- For some people it may feel difficult at times to open up to family members due to poor communication or fear of how they may react. In these instances friends might provide a better source of support. Friends can offer us companionship during our darkest times. Having people who you know you can rely on and call upon during your times of need can be invaluable.
- While friends and family can offer support, sometimes the best person to help you through a mental health challenge is the person who has gone through it themself. Finding a community of people who have or are experiencing what you have can help lessen the feeling that you are alone in your suffering. There are many support groups—in person and online— that offer a community to those facing mental health challenges.
- While there are benefits to human interactions, some who suffer from social anxiety may struggle to connect with others despite having a desire to. In these instances animals can provide a wonderful source of social connection in a form that feels unconditional and judgment free. If you are not in a position to take on a pet yourself but are interested in the therapeutic benefits of spending time with an animal you could volunteer at an animal shelter. This is a great way to have the connection you are seeking while also helping animals in need.
Take time this week to nurture one of your social connections. If you are feeling disconnected from others, choose one person this week to connect with and see how it impacts your mental health.