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Aubrey Hammack

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Social Support Systems
By Aubrey Hammack   

Last edited: Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2003

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How important are social support sytems.

Social Support Systems





Support Systems. What are they? How do they affect us? Hospitals have long been recognized as providing support systems that prolong life or at least attempt to. There are support systems that are not hospital connected. These are social support systems. Now grant it, even hospitals provide this type of support also. How important are these systems? I believe they are extremely vital.

Many times when a person is depressed, we find that they have broken away from some if not all of his major support systems that help all of us to lead happier more productive lives. I like to think of support systems as the glue that helps hold all of us together. Numerous studies indicate that social support is related to health, well being, and overall quality of life.

These systems are made up of a variety of people including family and unrelated persons. Family ties often provide the structure of a supportive relationship, but this is not always the case. Sometimes these relationships are strained and hostile. Non-relatives many times are called on to supplement damaged or destroyed family support.

Various organizations play a major role in supporting us in all kinds of ways. For example, Churches, the Lions Club, Optimist Club, Touchdown Clubs, Girl and Boy Scouts, Pink Ladies and many others. And yes children need these organizations as indicated above.

Exactly what do these groups do that promote mental health? They give people reason and purpose for living. They give one a chance to ventilate feelings, which is very important. We share our burdens and joys with these groups.

Various groups promote a varied chance for stimulation. Without these, one can lose a major ingredient for living a satisfied life. We can not exist in a healthy way, if only by ourselves. These groups help to show us how to do for others and not just ourselves.

Max Cleland, former Secretary of the State of Georgia and a United States Senator in his book "Strong at the Broken Places" shares a quote from Earnest Hemingway, which is as dynamic a saying as I’ve heard. He states that "life breaks us all and many are strong at the broken places. Everyone of us has been broken to a degree. How we react to these breaks depends on the support that we have from others. If we do become strong at the broken places – then we can serve as inspiration for others. Max Cleland is a very good example of this.

When we think of support, imagine the structure of a bridge. The support beams that hold the bridge up are what makes the structure strong. The legs on a chair hold the chair up. The foundation for the house holds and supports the house. Humans are the support beams that hold each other up. An individual is only as strong as the relatives and friends we surround ourselves with.

I am reminded of a workshop that I attended a few years ago in Atlanta. The instructor had the class to look at a diagram of three concentric circles, with a smaller circle in the center containing the word YOU. Each of these three circles was viewed as representing different levels of closeness to the focal person. These circles, we were told, represented different levels of closeness. We describe the people in the inner circle as those that we feel closest to. In fact most of the time we feel so close to these people that it is hard to imagine life without them. This inner network is usually limited to a few close relationships. The middle circle consists of people to whom you may not feel quite that close but they are still important to us. The outer circle members are people with whom there is a significant relationship but not close enough to be placed in the other two circles.

When you draw this diagram, then one is able to see that support systems are important. If you have not thought about systems in this way before and you take a few minutes to fill in the circles, I think you might be able to learn something about yourself. If upon completion, you find few relationships make up the circles you might want to explore why that is.

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Reviewed by Hiren Shah 9/8/2005
Very nicely explained.

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