Family and Community Support
When an individual is struggling with a mental health disorder, it can be difficult to maintain vital connections to one’s family and community. In addition, many forms of treatment may make accessing social connections difficult. Mental health programs may ask clients to spend significant periods away from their social networks. However, family and community connections are necessary for recovery can be maintained during treatment.
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Defining Family and Community
How do we define family and community? The most basic definition of family is this: Families are individuals related to each other by genetics. This, of course, includes parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins. Communities are less easily defined but account for the groups of people one may encounter and share space with in their life – their coworkers, friends, classmates, or others.
In addition to traditional definitions of family and community, many people find wider definitions useful. Broadening one’s understanding of these concepts can allow one to connect to the people in one’s life and create a stronger support network.
Chosen families are a newer method of understanding family. Many people cannot have or do not desire interactions with their genetic family. Sometimes one’s genetic family members may have passed away, live far away, or may be otherwise inaccessible. In addition, family can be the source of trauma, meaning that connections to one’s genetic family may be more harmful than helpful.
Regardless of one’s connection to their genetic family, many people have a “secondary” or “additional” family, called the chosen family. Chosen families, arising from LGBT communities in the ’90s, are typically made up of close, often long-term friends who play the roles of family members. These friends hold the same importance as genetic families and can play vital roles in people’s well-being.
A Broader Definition of Community
The idea of community is often used to define a local social network. However, more expansive definitions of community can be greatly beneficial. For example, many individuals, especially those living in rural areas or those with physical disabilities, find that online communities are just as meaningful as in-person communities. Communities also include those who share hobbies and interests and communities based on shared identity and history, such as the LGBT community or various communities of color.
Importance of Family and Community
The role that family and community play in mental health can not be understated. In fact, studies have shown that community participation is linked to higher levels of mental health. In addition, for people in marginalized groups, such as LGBT people of color or transgender individuals, connections to family or others of similar identities have been shown to increase mental well-being.
Since family and community support are so important, it is vital for any mental health care plan to incorporate this aspect. The most important aspects of family and community for mental health include:
- Family support and mentoring for career, schooling, and safety
- Ability to access community hubs, such as libraries, community centers, or gathering spots
- A safe home area to return to
- Education on and knowledge of one’s history and culture
- For younger individuals, mentors with shared identities, traits, and experiences
When individuals have access to these elements of family and community, they gain meaningful access to mental health success and long-term recovery.
Connecting to Family and Community
Many people with psychiatric disorders may struggle to find new relationships and communities. Some of the most common symptoms of psychiatric disorders, such as lethargy or difficulty connecting to others, can make initiating or sustaining connections with others difficult. In addition, stigma often creates walls between those with these disorders and the people around them.
Finding community is often the most challenging step in creating a strong social safety net. It may seem like there are many barriers. Time, distance, and stigma are just a few. However, there are methods that can be useful for anyone. Some strategies include:
- Reaching out to old friends
- Joining a pen-pal program
- Checking out dating websites or local events
- Participating in online hobby communities
- Signing up for nearby events
Our Family and Community Services
Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention, located in the College Area of San Diego, California, is a crisis stabilization unit (CSU) offering holistic, evidence-based treatment to those with psychiatric disorders. We know that family and community are integral to recovery. To help our clients recover, we offer a variety of unique family and community support services.
Small Group Size
We know that many mental health programs are overbooked and busy. Individuals in these programs often struggle to receive attention from health staff or get to know their peers. At Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention, our CSU has a maximum capacity of 16 individuals, ensuring a friendly, tight-knit community. Our staff gets to know every one of our clients. In addition, through group activities and outings, clients can get to know each other and form connections. When conflicts or problems arise, staff help to resolve difficulties.
While enrolled in our CSU, clients have access to a variety of group therapy options, including:
- Psycho-educational groups
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
In addition, we offer a variety of other services that mediate social connection and wellness.
Our program includes a variety of outings and social events. Examples of outings include:
- Volunteering in the community
- Outdoor group activities
- Social skills development training
Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention offers holistic, evidence-based care that emphasizes family and community as much as you do. To learn about your treatment options, call us at (619) 457-4613.