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the importance of social support on mental health
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The Importance of Social Support in Mental Health

The Importance of Social Support in Mental Health

The importance of Social Support in Mental Health has been observed repeatedly in psychological research. Mental health is defined as a state of well-being, in which someone knows their capabilities and uses them effectively and productively in a way that is useful for their communities. Health is a concept influenced by a set of complex factors which includes social support. Social factors can play a critical role in fostering positive mental health.

Social support (or the perception of support) provides physical and psychological advantages for people faced with stressful physical and psychosocial events and is considered as a factor reducing (and protecting against) psychological distress.

What is social support?

Social support, broadly defined, is a network of people who are typically known and interact with an individual or organization. It is the basis for human networks which provide us with social protection, and it’s increasingly recognized as an important component of mental well-being.

Physical, social, and psychological aspects of social support are very important in regards to an individual’s mental health. Social support is based on shared interests, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that are essential for promoting psychological well-being and functional integration. Social support includes activities such as sharing and caring behaviors that help individuals get through stressful life experiences.

the importance of social support in mental health
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How does social support impact Mental Health?

We all have social support systems, though the strength of an individual’s social support network can vary greatly. A person can be classified as having a strong or weak social support system. Mental health problems or stressors can be due to the negative effects of social isolation and inadequacy, lack of social support, or lack of appropriate support. Studies from countries such as China, Kenya, and the United States have revealed that if patients have poor social support, then they are more likely to resort to self-medication when facing mental health issues which is less effective than professional aid through interventions such as psychotherapy.

Poor social support can also negatively impact physical health, which may then, in turn, contribute to mental health challenges or conditions. Social integration has routinely been identified in mortality studies as a protective factor. Health behaviors can also be influenced by social support. Such health factors may include diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol intake (or other drug use), which may be modulated by perceptions of those behaviors by either the social support network or society at large.

As an example, social integration may affect someone’s willingness to seek advice, which may then convince them to engage in preventative care, health-promoting behaviors, or avoid situational stressors. Other theoretical models suggest that social support helps psychologically buffer individuals from the effects of stressful events. In short, social support can assist with:

  • Improving the ability to cope with stressful situations
  • Alleviating the effects of emotional distress
  • Promoting lifelong good mental health
  • Enhancing self-esteem
  • Lowering cardiovascular risks, such as lowering blood pressure
  • Promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors
  • Encouraging adherence to a treatment plan

Types of Social Support

Social support techniques allow for a person to connect, receive advice, seek suggestions or encouragement when needed, and engage with other people who share similar interests. This support is more important for those with mental health conditions, or those from socio-economic backgrounds predisposed to the development of mental health disorders.

Social support can come in many different forms:

  1. Emotional support is a type of social support where the person provides emotional comfort to the person in distress. Close friends and family members provide hope and a listening ear. This technique is frequently used in social support for mental health that is important as it can impact the person’s ability to cope and manage.
  2. Instrumental Support. Instrumental support is defined by tangible aid and services. This could include a family member providing child-care while an individual goes to work or medical appointments.
  3. Informational Support includes advice, suggestions, or information intentionally delivered for the benefit of the recipient. An example might include friends sharing personal experiences to inform another’s decision-making, or a doctor providing information about a course of treatment.
  4. Appraisal is similar to informational support, but is more specific and includes information that is specifically useful for self-evaluation. For example, a friend might remind you of all the successes you have found in the face of failure, or all the positive characteristics one possesses following a break-up.

Social support can also include professional support, such as mental health professionals. Therapeutic care involves appropriate interventions specifically formulated to assist a specific individual with a specific problem, such as anxiety, depression, or symptoms of PTSD. The therapist’s job is to teach the patient or patient care partner the skills they need to manage distress, such as progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing.

the importance of social support in mental health
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The importance of social support

Social support is generally associated with broad factors such as identity, support, ties, networks, and empathy. It can also protect and promote healthy, self-directed lifestyles. Further, social support has been shown to support better interpersonal functioning, which in turn facilitates physical and psychological wellbeing. Social support fosters self-esteem and inhibits feeling incompetent or helpless in coping with stress. There is a preponderance of evidence that suggests social support is linked with lower depression, lower anxiety, and lower hopelessness levels among depressed patients.

Tactics for Establishing and Improving Social Support

While we all might know someone as “the social butterfly”, not everyone is naturally social. When social support is identified as a goal, a natural conclusion is that the only way to increase social support is to increase friendships. While that is certainly one way to approach the goal of increasing social support, there are lots of ways to increase social support that might surprise you, such as:

  • Volunteering. Pick something that is important to you and get involved. These could be enjoyable activities, such as sports or physical activities, or activities that benefit groups of people important to you, such as underserved populations. You’re sure to meet others who share similar interests and values.
  • Join a gym or fitness group. We have talked about the importance of physical activity previously here. Incorporating physical fitness into your day is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. You can make friends while you exercise. Look at gyms or fitness-oriented groups in your area using a site like Meetup.
  • Take a class. Local college or community education courses put you in contact with others who share similar hobbies or pursuits. Alternatively, you might take classes oriented towards the creative arts, music, or hobbies like photography.
  • Look online. Social networking sites can help you stay connected with friends and family. Be sure to stick to reputable sites, and be cautious about arranging in-person meetings.


Social support is a crucial factor in ensuring health-related well-being in both individuals and the population. In this article, we have discussed how social support and social emotions affect mental health. They both impact the individual’s subjective well-being and mental health. Social support and social emotions are intimate relations between an individual and their group of family, friends, and social relationships. They are grounded in the social, emotional, and cognitive resources of each individual, which are focused on the ability to manage stress, through which we could all use a little more support. Looking for assistance with building social support? We’d love to help. 


Cohen, S. (1988). Psychosocial models of the role of social support in the etiology of physical disease. Health psychology7(3), 269.

Harandi, T. F., Taghinasab, M. M., & Nayeri, T. D. (2017). The correlation of social support with mental health: A meta-analysis. Electronic physician9(9), 5212.

Dr. Benson Munyan is a Clinical Psychologist licensed in both Florida and Arizona. He is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Florida's College of Medicine and the Director of Neurocove Behavioral Health, LLC. He specializes in the assessment and treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma-related disorders. Dr. Munyan earned his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Central Florida. He currently holds clinical privileges at both Neurocove Behavioral Health and the Orlando Veteran’s Affairs Healthcare System. He has also previously published clinical research and articles in peer-reviewed journals including PLoS One and Clinical Case Studies.
Benson Munyan, Ph.D.

Rachel Creamer, Ph.D.



My name is Dr. Rachel Creamer. I specialize in providing evidenced-based care to those struggling with anxiety, depression, substance use, and trauma. Seeking therapy takes tremendous courage. You are taking the first step toward positive change. We will work together to help you reach a fulfilling and values-driven life. 


The goal of our first session is to better understand what brings you to therapy and to get to know you better. In the first session we will also talk about your goals for treatment and ways to accomplish these goals. We will also focus on learning skills to help you start making positive changes today. 


Therapy can bring about great positive change. Fostering a safe and compassionate space for clients is the foundation for allowing growth in therapy. Therapy is collaborative. While I am the expert on evidence-based treatment, you are the expert on you. We will work together on reaching your treatment goals and creating a more gratifying life. 


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Couples Therapy (Gottman method)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
Nicholas James Psychologist Orlando Florida

Nicholas James, Ph.D.



My name is Nicholas James, Ph.D. I have experience working with individuals facing anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, insomnia, and caregiver strain. I focus on matching evidence-based therapies to the needs of my clients to meet their personal goals of recovery and growth.


I believe that change occurs through personal reflection, cultivating strengths and resources, and incorporating growth into everyday life. It is my goal that each session is collaborative and integrates needs, beliefs, and your background into a person-centered treatment plan.


I try to bring a genuine, humanistic atmosphere to every session. My therapeutic approach is centered in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and incorporates additional evidence-based practices to address unique needs that arise during therapy.


  • Trauma Focused
  • Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)
  • Acceptance & Commitment (ACT)
  • Behavior Modification
  • Humanistic
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) 
  • Mindfulness-Based (MBCT)
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Benson Munyan Psychologist Orlando Florida

Benson Munyan, PhD, ABPP



My name is Dr. Benson Munyan. I am a board-certified clinical psychologist. I specialize in working with those experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and trauma. If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you’re looking for something. Whatever the origin of your story, you are here. There is no time like the present to change our tomorrow.


From our very first session, skills are introduced, demonstrated, and assigned as practice assignments between meetings. I collaboratively set each session agenda with my clients, ensuring we have time for following up since the last session, troubleshooting any problems with skills or homework, and working on new problems or material.


Let’s be honest. Sometimes, life is hard. And sometimes, it downright sucks. There, I said it. I believe we should be able to use everyday language in therapy, and that participating in therapy as our most genuine selves empowers us to better understand the challenges we’re facing as well as potential solutions.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Trauma-Focused Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
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