The Influence Of Social Support On Mental Health Recovery
Published on 31st January, 2024
According to the National Population Health Survey (NPHS), over 17% of Singaporeans face mental health struggles in 2022. With so many Singaporeans facing mental health issues, it is important to understand that there are many steps that can be taken to alleviate the symptoms of mental health challenges. Mental health recovery is a complex and nuanced journey, often influenced by various factors. Among these factors, social support plays a pivotal role in promoting resilience and aiding individuals in their recovery process.
Read on to learn more about the effect of social support on mental health recovery.
What is social support?
Social support refers to the assistance or comfort derived from relationships with others, including emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal support (Ko et al., 2013). This support can come from family, friends, peers, or mental health professionals. Studies have shown that having good social support is crucial for both physical and mental health. Lack of support can have detrimental effects, but strong social connections may help protect mental health, possibly by influencing genetics and how we handle stress through our brain pathways (Ozbay et al., 2007).
The connection between social support and mental health recovery
- Emotional support
Emotional support, whether through comforting gestures like hugs or attentive listening without judgement, plays a crucial role in tough times. Friends or partners who offer understanding and reassurance can help to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. This form of support, including validation and caring gestures, is essential for those seeking solace and a sense of connection during challenging situations. Simply having someone empathetic to talk to can make a significant difference, alleviating the burden without the need for advice or problem-solving (Scott, 2023).
- Instrumental support
Tangible support, also known as instrumental support, involves shouldering responsibilities for someone, allowing them to address a challenge. This form of support can take an active role in helping individuals manage their problems. Examples include lending money, providing transportation, doing chores or housework, delivering meals during illness, offering childcare, running errands, and assisting with tasks like moving. Those offering tangible support may contribute practically, such as bringing dinner during sickness, actively assisting in problem-solving or addressing challenges directly.
- Informational support
Informational support involves providing advice, guidance, and information to help individuals better understand and cope with their challenges (Ko et al., 2013). In the context of mental health recovery, friends, family, and professionals can offer valuable insights, resources, and information about available treatment options. Some examples of these valuable insights are step-by-step instructions and health, legal, financial or social advice.
- Appraisal support
Appraisal, or esteem support, involves bolstering confidence and offering encouragement. This social support provides individuals with the strength to tackle challenges. Typically, it manifests as friends or family members reminding us of our qualities that can help us overcome obstacles. This form of support contributes positively to one's mindset, fostering a sense of capability and resilience in the face of difficulties (Notre Dame College, 2023).
Challenges of social support in mental health recovery
While social support is undeniably beneficial, various challenges and barriers can impede its effectiveness. The stigma surrounding mental health issues, lack of awareness, and societal misconceptions can lead to the isolation of individuals in need. Additionally, individuals may hesitate to seek support due to fear of judgement or rejection. It is crucial to address these barriers and create environments that foster open communication and understanding to maximise the positive impact of social support.
Practical strategies to enhance social support in mental health recovery
● Pursue a hobby you’ve been contemplating
Engaging in a long-contemplated hobby not only fulfils personal interests but also presents an excellent opportunity to expand one's social circle. By participating in local clubs or classes related to the hobby, individuals can forge meaningful connections with like-minded peers, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared passion within the community (Beard, 2021).
● Reach out to your loved ones
Connecting (or reconnecting) with your loved ones, such as your friends, family, or even colleagues. If reaching out has been on your mind, but you haven't taken the initiative yet, consider making the first move by sending a text message or initiating contact. Re-establishing connections with your current friends and family is an accessible and effective way to strengthen your social support network.
● Adopt a furry friend
Studies have shown that pets are able to offer companionship and social support at the same level as human beings (Hardie et al., 2023). Explore adoption opportunities in your area through local news, shelters, or online platforms to welcome a new member into your family. Additionally, the responsibility of caring for a pet can instil a sense of routine, purpose, and increased physical activity in your daily life.
Social support, including couple therapy, is a cornerstone in the complex process of mental health recovery, especially if you or your partner grapple with managing your challenges. To facilitate mental health recovery, addressing barriers, raising awareness, and implementing practical strategies that enhance the quality and availability of social support, is essential. By fostering a supportive environment, we can contribute to the wellbeing of individuals on their journey to mental health recovery, by seeking guidance and assistance through counselling for adults in Singapore. For those who are still struggling, such counselling can serve as a crucial lifeline towards regaining mental and emotional stability.
Beard, C. (2021). 6 Tips for Increasing Social Support. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lab-real-world/202106/6-tips-increasing-social-support
Hardie, S., Loc, D., & Howell, T. J. (2023). Social support and wellbeing in cat and dog owners, and the moderating influence of Pet–Owner relationship quality. Anthrozoos, 36(5), 891–907. https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2023.2182029
Ko, H., Wang, L., & Xu, Y. (2013). Understanding the different types of social support offered by audience to A-List Diary-Like and informative bloggers. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(3), 194–199. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0297
Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan, C. A., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 4(5), 35–40.
Scott, E., PhD. (2023). The different types of social support. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/types-of-social-support-3144960