Friday, September 14, 2012

Social Support: We Need Each Other to Thrive

In light of all the current media attention to bullying issues, it begs consideration about the well being of our society, on a very basic level. In an attempt at being hurtful (whether it be kids or adults engaging in it), we’re destroying the very thing we need – each other.

On one hand, we’re hurting one another, or in a worse case scenario, killing, such as the instance of Trayvon Martin, in our attempts at feeling superior in some way; yet on the other hand, we can’t survive with out each other, as friends, family, a community or society.

“We’re social creatures, and each one of us contributes to the larger picture. We need each other to thrive, not only in our daily endeavors, but also for the sake of our emotional and physical health” (“Social Connections,” Alive, 2010).  

Studies confirm that the greater our social support the lower our physical and mental health risks.

And according to Statistics Canada, Nearly two-thirds of those who felt a very strong or somewhat strong sense of community belonging reported excellent or very good general health. In contrast, only half of those with a very weak sense of belonging view their general health as favorable as those with a strong sense of community belonging.” 

So, if we need each other, why are we hurting each other?

Be it modeling negative behavior, wanting to fit in, feeling frustrated or angry and lacking a viable outlet, or any other reasons that many of us have heard about (or used), there’s always a justification. A more viable question might be about where we draw the line.

How do we go from being destructive, to kind and respectful to each other? That’s a big question that probably has many big answers to go with it. But any of us can start anywhere, at anytime, in tons of simple ways.

Some people live by the motto of “treat others the way you want to be treated.” Others enjoy the idea of “random acts of kindness.” The list goes on. Bottom line is that we are stronger together – collectively. “Having close relationships makes people feel valued, cared for, increases self-confidence…” ("Strong Communities," Healthy Living Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 3).

We’re more than just a FB page, or the recipient of a text or a tweet, taking up space somewhere.

John McKnight put it well when he said, “A community is commonly understood to be about relationships; it’s not a place. A neighborhood is a place, but community is about people’s relationships” (1990). Regardless of the venue – be it in person or online - we are a community, brought together by common goals.

We’re people, with real needs and feelings, not objects to ridicule and punish.

With the prevalence of issues like bullying, it’s time we exerted greater effort toward being a stronger network for each other, with more kindness, and less pain.

“As a society, we share the earth. Collectively we’re faced with issues, such as global warming, natural disasters, and the limited supply of our natural resources. In order to be successful in our collective goals, we need to be supportive of each other. We all have strengths and resources we can utilize to reduce the stress and chaos among us. We need to draw upon our strengths to contribute to the health of our society” (“Social Connections,” Alive, 2010).  

Related Links


1.Canadian Mental Health Association - Richmond, BC, Canada, “Maintaining Your Mental Health: Social Support,” 2009.

2. Statistics Canada, The Daily. “Study: Community Belonging and Self-perceived Health,” 2005.