When people talk about managing mental health the most frequent thing to do is to recourse to self help or looking to services to help. There is less recognition of the power of social networks for help and support based on connections and reciprocity around us.
Separating out the individual from their need for other people and ability to mobilise resources in order to manage effectively, has meant that the notion of a personal community of support (the array of personal ties with which people are located and embedded) has not tended to be included in understanding or responding to mental health need.
Now there’s a nascent social movement about networks.
The utility of social network resources depends on successful activation of connections that can provide access to relevant information or support. Its not a panacea that doesn’t change and adapt.
When we asked people at Recovery colleges about who supported them, when and how, they pointed to difference depending on whether they were in crises or not.
Day-to-day networks differed from crisis networks in so far as they tended toward greater diversity (i.e. they containined a mixture of people, activities, pets and places) and thus capacity for being socially involved and connected. We know this can enhance self-efficacy, the capacity to self-manage and the getting support we need from other people, voluntary and community organisations.
Social network membership appeared to shrink from the broader diversity in everyday management, at times of crisis.
In times of crisis, interactions with networks members were more selective, tend to shrink, with the participants’ closest networks most likely to remain in the network.
Being in touch with fewer but closer social network members was seen by our respondents as a means of ensuring the security of continuing acceptance despite the difficulties presented by a crisis. The shrinking of the network members that people were in contact with presented a way of managing crises through isolation – allowing withdrawal and the means to cope on one’s own.
Interaction with fewer close network members may also help ease managing the permutations of dishonour, shame, enacted and felt stigma – which accompany the onset of a crisis.
Read Anne and her colleagues paper –