Loneliness is endemic. Despite — and I can’t repeat this outdated line enough — how “connected” we are globally, research screams daily that we are just not feeling it.
Being lonely can detrimentally affect your mental health. You don’t need to be surrounded by crowds of people — that’s…that’s not how it works and is also my nightmare. You’re reading the thoughts of someone who loves alone time (But that’s not lonely time). I’m talking about having meaningful, reciprocal relationships with other people.
In mental health care, we’re supposed to know this inherently. And I guess we do, we’re just not translating it into reality.
Your Support Network
Working in mental health, we often talk about this elusive ‘support network’. It might be made up of your healthcare providers, your practitioner and therapist and all the other -ists. You know, when a team like that works well together it is incredibly valuable.
When it doesn’t, well. You’re just a client, right? You’re one of the ones what slipped through the net. You can’t help everyone.
Because these people aren’t your friends. They’re not your family. That’s another section of your support network entirely.
Here’s the sticking point though — what if you don’t have them?
It’s Not Important
That’s the consensus. It doesn’t matter. Because with all of this professional help, we’re gonna have you up and ready to make new friends, and start a new family. If only you would engage with us, we can teach you — with these essential professional boundaries — how to build actual relationships.
But, You Can’t Though
People need friends. They need friends to talk to about what they’re going through. Whether you’re in mental health care or totally removed from it, humans are social beings and we need. a. tribe.
Without positive, meaningful relationships in our lives, we’re not going to survive. How many times have you been in a pickle and immediately called upon a friend? If you haven’t been able to do that, how much does that suck?
Friends Are Our Most Important Support
They have healthy, self-preserving boundaries. Not professional, nonreciprocal walls.
I had a great therapist. I say this as a relatively poor woman who went for the option she could afford through a charity in Japan. He maintained professional boundaries, he worked with me tirelessly and he absolutely helped me recover.
But outside of that hour a week, I had a wonderful friend. She came to live with me, got me back into cooking and working. Listened and motivated me.
Without her, would I be here? I can’t say I would.
I often wonder about people struggling through life who don’t have friends. And I’m not saying we should remove professional boundaries. A job is a job. But why we discredit the importance of personal support networks, I do not understand.
Both professional and personal relationships are of equal importance. We’ve got the Psychiatrists, Occupational Therapists, Counsellors, MDs. Where are the Befrienders, the Volunteers, the Cheerleaders? I feel mental health care could see a real difference if we shared the spotlight.