A support network is essential for wellness. Carry the weight of life alone, and you may struggle.
by Grant J Everett
Maintaining wellness is something that is better to do as a team rather than as an individual. Friends, family, neighbours, workmates and casual acquaintances can all play a positive role in your life, and you may be surprised by how many people stick with you through tough times. Your team – generally referred to as your “support network” – can be made up of anybody you know, and each person will have different things to offer you. Note that your support people don’t need any formal training, or even know how to spell “schizophrenia” without using a dictionary. Building a support network isn’t a popularity contest! And even if you’re pretty isolated right now, that doesn’t mean things will stay that way forever. Despite how many bridges you’ve burned, there are still tens of millions of people in this country you haven’t met yet. And of course RichmondPRA is always there to support you!
A lot of people who get admitted to hospital for mental health stuff will feel embarrassed to invite people to visit (despite the fact they need them now more than ever). Stigma is a real factor we have to contend with, and it’s understandable that people may feel reluctant to scream from the rooftops that they’re currently living in a locked ward.
However, your support network can still support you even if they never set foot in the hospital grounds. For instance, while you’re in hospital your next door neighbour could feed your goldfish, your mum can make sure your rent and bills keep getting paid, and your mate from high school can meet you for a coffee and a chat (though whether you tell him that you’re on day leave or not is up to you).
Alone by choice?
Many people have been hurt in the past and don’t want to open themselves up to more heartache, or they may simply enjoy their own company. No matter what the reasoning, though, living in total isolation is usually dreadful for mental health conditions. Also, these conditions have the potential to push away our closest friends and loved ones first, so by the time somebody has reached the point where they need to get medical intervention, they may be alone.
One of the trickiest parts of relationships is knowing exactly where you stand. Just to be clear, though, it’s unrealistic to expect everybody you know to be a part of your recovery. This can be a level of responsibility that some people won’t want, and you can’t make somebody do anything they don’t want to do. Bringing people into your support network can be a delicate process, so try not to take the occasional rejection too personally.
Free formal support
There are many organisations who cater for people learning to live a full life with mental health issues. Organisations like RichmondPRA and other not-for-profit services (such as Sane and Black Dog Institute) offer literature, telephone helplines, drop-in centres, supported employment and online counselling. There’s assistance for many of the obstacles we can encounter in life, whether it’s for mental health stuff or the side-effects of mental health stuff (such as homelessness, drug addiction, relationship difficulties, unemployment, and so on). Australia provides quite a lot of free support, and a lot of it is only a phone call away. So whether you want some intensive group therapy or are just after a free cup of coffee and a chat, no matter what, you don’t have to do it all alone.
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