The Importance of Social Networks in Mental Health Recovery

Far too commonly accompanying a mental breakdown, is total isolation and alienation from one’s former social network; such an environment of loneliness and detachment is far from conducive to mental health recovery. The development of strong, progressive, and proactive social networks is instrumental for those suffering from a mental illness of any kind. Interestingly, the three major recovery-based nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand) have all adopted rather differing takes on the role of social networks in mental wellness.American practitioners host a Clubhouse approach to developing social networks for mental healthcare consumers. This generally means providing an environment where consumers can retire to for communal grouping activities. The environment is generally seen as a ‘safe’ place, which offers support and guidance for those on the path to recovery. While some mental healthcare consumers argue such an environment is beneficial yet they would rather surround themselves with a group of people doing something rather than simply conversing, others contest that this is a place to find those on the road to recovery who are doing just that; bettering themselves through a group effort. Such arguments are supported by the view that while low-functional consumers may not be very active initially, as one progresses to higher level functionality so too does one’s contribution and efforts.Additionally, the club houses provide an escape. They allow mental healthcare consumers to develop a social network of empathetic individuals working towards the same means while simultaneously keeping said individuals away from prior environments wherein they were likely to buy drugs, drink, etc. All of this is accomplished while offering services such as therapy, medication, educational services, exercise rooms, music rooms, employment coaching, and employment opportunities. Because American mental health consumers are so often alienated from their birth-right families, such club houses are instrumental in the formation of a new social network and have proven to be very successful in empowering those with mental illnesses to get back on their feet after a sever breakdown.The United Kingdom’s approach to developing social networks is rooted in a culture of support; club houses are not seen as necessary because abandonment is far less common. Instead, the U.K. spends less time emphasizing finding the right combination of medications and instead focuses upon peer mentoring and support. Practitioners believe social guidance is key to mental health recovery, and consequently steer away from invasive psychotherapy, relying on, in its place, peer-to-peer empathetic relationships conducive to recovery and social support.New Zealand practitioners take on a rather unique view of social responsibility in enabling social networks due to the rather alarming rate of mental illnesses occurring among the nation’s ethnic natives. New Zealand officials believe imperialism and former racism unfairly and unjustly impacted the native population to a huge extent, and thus it is the responsibility of society and the government to support the recovering minority population in financial development, employment procurement, and the development of social networks. This obligatory support from the government has likely created a situation wherein it is a cultural expectation to be supportive, and is far from socially acceptable to practice familial abandonment over a mental illness.Social networks play a critical role in mental health recovery. In America, the Clubhouse Model provides a place for rehabilitation, re-training, job coaching, employment, and the formation of social networks. In the United Kingdom, social networks are familial, rather than their peer-based counterparts in America, and it is a social obligation to aid those in need. New Zealanders extend the U.K.’s social obligation into government directives in the formation of social networks of support, making mental health recovery more about racial discrimination and ethnicity rather than innate conditions.Each cultural interpretation has its own strengths and weaknesses, but regardless of the focus, the fact is a strong, supportive, proactive, and encouraging social network that supports self-improvement rather than the return of old habits is critical in recovery from a mental illness.

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