Human beings are social animals. To get through a personal crisis, we rely on the support of our immediate peer group. Given that NHS funding for mental health services is under pressure, particularly in our region, there’s a distinct role for community groups to play in supporting mental health.
For those struggling with mental health issues, having access to a network of supportive peers is critical. This might mean an online group of like-minded people. But this is a poor substitute for regular face-to-face contact. We get many subtle cues from body language and facial expressions, and cutting these out of the equation can lead to a sense of isolation – even if you’re receiving hundreds of messages through WhatsApp.
Being able to share personal stories and experiences can be invaluable, especially if the other party to the conversation is listening with understanding and empathy.
Community groups might also be able to provide advice and to point individuals toward the professional help that they might need. This doesn’t just mean medical professionals, but legal ones, too. Former members of the armed services, for example, might benefit from working with specialised military solicitors.
Even if we leave aside the actual content of the conversations you’re having with your support group, there’s an inherent value to socialising and belonging. In this kind of positive social space, you’ll make yourself a part of something larger, and this can help you deal with problems like depression and anxiety. This is something that religious groups have considerable experience with.
A group can also provide isolated people with a much-needed sense of purpose. Provided that this purpose is a positive one, this can be enormously beneficial. Seek out a support group that aligns with your values and life goals, and you’ll find yourself motivated to take life on – and you’ll get the support you need when you need to be picked up.
How to find a community
We’ve already mentioned the role that religion can play in forming groups of this kind. But secular people aren’t without options. You might join an activist group – but the better option is usually to take up something that’s inherently enjoyable and fulfilling. Creative pursuits, sports, and hobbies all have something to offer. Check with your friends, family, and social media. It might be that there’s a local group that offers exactly what you’re looking for!