How a Good Support System Contributes to Emotional Well-Being

Mental health has always been a sensitive topic to discuss. Individuals in our communities struggle though the different ways with which mental health can impact one’s life. Individuals who are dealing with mental health conditions are further negatively impacted by the way they are treated by others. The stigma surrounding mental health has led to numerous misunderstandings which only further ostracizes those who suffer from mental health conditions. Our words have the power to uplift those that live with mental health conditions and reduce the negative misunderstandings surrounding them.

The biggest misunderstanding is the belief that mental health is not a real health condition. Like any other health care concerns, there are many forms of treatment – many of which remain under-explored in our communities due to heavy connotation.

Another important point we must understand is that mental health concerns vary in type of condition, as well as severity. Two individuals could deal with the same condition and experience different symptoms at different levels. In our society we tend to overgeneralize mental health concerns, and consequently individuals may underestimate the severity of their condition and may not seek out the treatment that they need.

A major component of any treatment plan is having a strong support system. Due to the lack of knowledge surrounding mental health, many of us do not know where to begin when trying to support a loved one. While some of us may have worries that we may further hurt someone with our words or actions, other individuals think it’s better to not say or do anything.

The bottom line is that we care and are worried about the well-being of our loved ones. Rather than letting our worries freeze us into inaction, the best thing we can do is be open to learning. Mistakes are normal, so long as someone keeps an open mind and understands the limits in their ability to provide support, both parties will be able to learn and grow together. We don’t need to be everything all at once, but with an open mind we can know when it’s time to look for other resources.

One of the most hurtful misunderstandings is that individuals dealing with mental health issues have “lost their minds” or are somehow beyond the point of receiving treatment. The language we use matters. We must be mindful of the things we say and do because everyone deserves to feel safe and supported.

Reem Shawkat

The Author

Reem Shawkat is a graduate of George Mason University, with her master's thesis successfully defended in May 2020. She graduated cum laude from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Psychology in May 2017. To further develop her research skills, she will be pursuing her doctoral degree at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Outside of research, Reem has worked with a number of organizations in the Sudanese diaspora and dreams of founding her own organization in the future.