Social support is basically a network of family, friends, neighbours, and community members who are available to give different types of support in times of need to.
Social support enhances quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events. These supportive resources can be emotional (e.g., nurturance), informational (e.g., advice), or companionship (e.g., sense of belonging); tangible (e.g., financial assistance), or intangible (e.g., kind words).
Types of Social Support
Social Support can come in different forms and play different roles in your life, such as:
Emotional Support: This is a form of care where people around you back you with a shoulder to cry on when things don’t go your way. It is about providing love, reassurance and encouragement. This support can also be in form of companionship, by creating a sense of belonging.
Instrumental Support: Involves providing assistance in taking care of your physical needs and offer a helping hand when you need it. Such support is important when people have immediate needs that must be addressed, such as a helping a pregnant woman with shopping, helping a friend out while planning her wedding, or providing financial assistance as needed.
Informational Support: People can provide informative and instructive supports. This can involve guidance, advice, information, instructions, consolation, and mentoring. This support can be important in making a big decision or major life changes.
Sources of Support:
Social Support can come from a variety of places or people including (but not limited to); family, friends, romantic partners, pets, community ties, places of worship, and coworkers. The source of social support is important in determining the effectiveness of coping.
With the advent of technology, online platforms also play key roles in offering social support networks. Social media websites, blogs, Facebook groups and pages, and forums amongst others offer some sort of social support by creating a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Social support through social media is available to everyone with internet access and allows users to create relationships and receive encouragement for whatever issues they may be facing. This helps breach the distance gaps for people who wish to offer assistance to do so without really changing location.
Benefits of Social Support
Social Support has a variety of mental health benefits, which include
- Alleviating the effects of emotional distress.
- Promoting lifelong healthy mental health.
- Enhancing confidence and self-esteem.
- Promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors
- Creating a sense of belonging and acceptance
- Promoting loving and caring relationships
- Improving the ability to cope with stressful situations.
Cultivating your Social Support Network
To build a social network outside of one’s immediate family, one may need to volunteer, join a gym or fitness group, lookup online support groups or telecommunication support systems such as Lagos Lifeline.
To strengthen one’s social network one would need put in efforts to stay in touch, be a good listener, appreciate and accept friends and families, encourage and reassure them as needed amongst other interpersonal skills.
Having a support network requires loving effort from all parties. You are a support network to somebody, as much as they are a support network to you, thus, staying connected is crucial in enjoying the benefits of the relationship.