Today, WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity.” Although mental health was not given as much priority in the past, today we know that it is just as important. If you are suffering from any kind of mental illness, not only are you affected, but so are your relationships with others. Thus, it is quite critical to understand these effects in today’s era where the incidence of mental disorders has risen like never before.

 What effects do social relationships have on mental health?

Social relationships are an important factor for mental health. (source: oakville.ca)

It is human nature to yearn for socialization and support. Due to this, relationships are major factors that contribute to our quality of life. People who have the feeling of good connection with their peers and their community have been shown to have a much happier, physically and mentally healthier life. According to research, feelings of loneliness and worthlessness are the major factors contributing to the development of depression- yes depression, the condition that by 2020, may be second only to heart disease as in international health problem.  Through many surveys, it is now seen that socializing with your neighbors and colleagues, volunteering (especially for people who have retired) and taking up recreational activities such as sports can be a great boost for your mental health. Humans are social beings, that’s how it has been since ages ago- and now we’re reminded once again about why.

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How can having a mental illness affect relationships?

Mental Illnesses (source: globalhealthgovernance.org)

According to the Collins English Dictionary mental illnesses are defined as “any of various conditions in which a person’s thoughts, emotions, or behaviour are disordered and can cause suffering to himself, herself, or other people.” Indeed, like any other physical disease, mental diseases can also impose a great burden to the people around.

Since the needs of the ill becomes the main concern, family life can become unpredictable and worrying. Although family members will try their best to be strong and supportive, often times it is challenging. Family members have often had to leave their jobs or other hobbies in order to take care of them. Some have admitted to feeling guilty and blaming themselves for their relative’s mental conditions. In several cases, family members themselves have needed support. Sometimes when suffering from mental illness, the person might completely isolate himself from his family and loved ones. This becomes even more difficult for a child when their parent is suffering from these illnesses. These illnesses can affect people’s work productivity and deteriorate relationships with co-workers too. Although it can be a rough period, with proper measures, these hard times will eventually pass.

What measures can be taken in order to maintain/repair relationships during mental illnesses?

  • First make sure that you have consulted a professional about the mental illness.
  • Support the ill, but make sure you are protecting your own mental health too in the process.
  • If you are the parent of a mentally ill child, make sure that you communicate with your other children about the situation at hand. Try your best to make time one-on-one time for each of them. Encourage them to vocalize their feelings towards the situation too.
  • Make sure you keep realistic expectations. Be patient, calm and open-minded when dealing with someone who is suffering.
  • Consider joining support groups for people and family members of people who have become victim to the mental illness.
  • Attend marriage counseling or family therapy if you think you need it.
  • Talk to a friend, confide about how you are feeling.
  • Understand that mental illnesses are just as critical to deal with as physical ones. But just like physical illnesses, people can get through mental illnesses too and live a normal, happy life.
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