We all need support in our lives. Help and its power create a space of safety and even asylum for people to survive and thrive. Support is even more critical for people with mental health disorders. Without help, it is easy to lose sight of hope in your recovery.
Hope comes in all forms. Hope circulates through our subconscious at night and erupts in strange, mysterious ways during our waking hours. Hope is even more challenging to discover or rediscover for those carrying a mental health diagnosis. Nevertheless, people in recovery require hope to continue successfully managing symptoms and learning skills to live successfully.
The power of support
Regardless of the ‘problem,’ people battling extreme conditions need support in their lives. There seems to be a lack of articles that define, and map out, what good support is for people experiencing mental health symptoms. This article intends to expand and supplement people’s understanding of how to access support and enlist this resource in their recovery.
All people need human contact, regardless of medical or psychiatric status. The most potent forms of human connection are support and communication with people with fresh and different perspectives. These perspectives serve to expand and diversify your world-view.
The need for basic human contact
Even amid a profound break from ‘reality,’ staying in contact with others is the best medicine. People supply opportunities to stay connected to the world through communication and friendship. Essential connections create a safe harbour amid the worst nightmares.
The mental health system can sometimes skew your perspective on what constitutes being an ally and friend. When it comes to friends, people in the system take what they can get. People are also advised not to trust their instincts when interacting with friends and allies.
I’ve experienced this countless times with therapists. The person with the diagnosis must adjust, and their ally is “right” because the diagnosed person has to deal with people differently. Sometimes, this might be true. But there is no question that a diagnosed person can have a more grounded and healthy perspective than their ally.
Allies that will be crucial to your recovery are healthy and willing to listen to your gripes, whatever they may be, and able to say that you’re right instead of defending their point at all costs.
Healthy support is vital to recovery. Supporters and healthy allies will let people going through difficulties be comfortable with feelings of hurt and pain without automatically trying to reframe and move toward a supposed happier space.
Sometimes, someone’s safety means sitting with the pain. Processing pain with an ally allows people to be authentic, even by introducing risk into the relationship. Support goes beyond just our medical and psychiatric conditions. It encompasses all aspects of our lives.
Support must mirror the diversity in your life. We take risks and manage risks every day, and our allies must accept this about the people they support. Care and case managers are excellent point-people while active service providers in your recovery.
However, service providers, both the person providing case management and the agency, can change hands several times during the tenure of your recovery. After the rise of care management, you can expect periodic changes to service providers and episodic changes in the program’s capacity to provide the teeth necessary to carry the torch of your recovery beyond transitions in your provider.
Asking for support
Don’t hesitate to support troubling symptoms. Remember, some old symptoms will manifest unpredictably, and new ones may emerge during your recovery. Suitable supporters understand this when holding people accountable for unexplainable changes in your behavior or symptoms.
The best support will be self-aware and selfless to manage their issues and kick up your mental health issues effectively. Thus, your symptoms should not interfere with your relationship with your support.
The point person
Family and friends most likely make up the best pool of possible point-people to select from among all the service providers and allies vested in your recovery.
When you feel like a family member won’t make a great point-person, choose a friend, but choose someone who will be present and active in your recovery and accept the implications of the diagnosis. The point-person will need to possess certain qualities and have an extraordinary relationship with you.
The point person will need to be able to be present for you during times when you may not be present for yourself. That means a point-person may need to be comfortable making medical, psychiatric, and legal decisions on your behalf and in other aspects of your life, including housing and treatment options.
Ultimately, this is an extraordinary relationship. The point-person will need to know himself as thoroughly as you and your history and navigate boundaries between you and your supporters to make it work out in everybody’s best interest.
Recommendations for assessing good support
- Evaluate the quality of empathy given/provided
- What is the quality of support during challenging times?
- Is it different when you are at baseline?
- Evaluate your friend’s response to your behavior in a crisis
- Is it helpful?
When anyone is at risk of harm, never hesitate to contact the authorities. You are preserving the safety of your friend and allowing your friend to continue in their recovery without risk of further harm.
Max E. Guttman, LCSW is a psychotherapist and owner of Recovery Now, a mental health private practice in New York City.