Relationships are vital for our emotional wellbeing.
Whether connections between partners, friends, family or work colleagues, the networks of people we surround ourselves with can provide a framework of support in both good and bad times. Human beings are social creatures, and knowing that there is someone you can talk to, who values you as an individual and can give friendly advice – all of that is comforting and grounding, giving you a greater sense of wellbeing and a better quality of life.
For many people suffering mental health issues, however, the world can feel as though it is closing in as they struggle with their problems. Some may find that the relationships they once had slowly diminish in both quantity and quality, often leaving them with only a handful of close family members or reliable friends.
Whatever condition an individual may be suffering from, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and all other mental health issues can have a terribly isolating effect. Mental health problems are often accompanied by poor self-esteem and a lack of self-worth, often leading to the sufferer cutting themselves off from friends and family and no longer taking part in the social activities they may once have enjoyed.
The medical profession and those working in mental health jobs have long recognised the health benefits of surrounding ourselves with strong support networks. Because relationships lay the foundations for good mental health and wellbeing, losing their network of friends and extended family can send someone suffering from mental health problems into a downward spiral which exacerbates their illness – the more depressed you feel, the less likely you are to want to socialise, which perpetuates feelings of depression and loss of confidence.
Many people find it difficult to cope with a friend or family member suffering from mental health problems, but organisations such as the Mental Health Foundation offer guidance to both sufferers and their friends. While it can be hard to talk to someone whose behaviour is challenging, it is important for friends and family to try and maintain those relationships and encourage sufferers to engage and talk – even something as simple as a cup of tea and a sympathetic ear can make all the difference.
Campaigns such as the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘relationship resolution’ challenge are helping turn the spotlight on this very important aspect of our mental health. For those with jobs in mental health and the friends and families of sufferers, building stronger relationships and creating a framework of support really can help with recovery and lay the foundations for better mental health.
Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post