The Importance of Community

Written by: Janet Fluker, M.Ed., M.S.
The Importance of Community

One of the first things I ask a new client when we meet is “tell me about your support system”. Understanding how connected someone is to a community of support gives me a lot of information about their mental health. We are wired for connection. Being a part of a community lowers stress and isolation, gives us a sense of belonging and identity and can offer us emotional support, practical help and advice when we are going through a difficult time.

There are particular times of life where having a community eases the stress of a big transition. Having young children can be isolating. Befriending other parents can help as you share resources, information and just the daily trials and tribulations of raising little ones.

Moving to a new community can be overwhelming. We recently moved to a new part of town, and I have been grateful for my next-door neighbor for introducing me to the neighborhood and telling me the best stores, restaurants and hairdressers nearby! It has certainly eased the transition and given me a sense of belonging.

Having support while dealing with the death of a loved one, a new health diagnosis or recovery from a substance use disorder affects your ability to heal and recover. Sharing your struggles with others lessens the pain when you realize you are not alone.

In my practice I work with couples and always encourage them to have support outside the relationship. Your partner can’t meet all your needs so having friends and family you can rely on for emotional support lessens the pressure on the relationship. It is also important when something happens that affects both of you, such as the illness of a child or adjusting to a job loss.

There are many ways to connect with a community. Clubs or organizations that support your passions or interests are a natural way to connect with others who have similar interests. Joining a church can connect you with others who share your values and beliefs. Support groups led by mental-health professionals or meetings such as 12-step programs can offer the strength and support you need to change and grow. Even those with chronic illness can join an online group for connection and support. Or you can start
your own – by gathering a group to volunteer for a cause you believe in or finding others in your neighborhood that are interested in a book club.

Whatever you choose to do to connect with a community, make a commitment and show up. It takes time to build trust and get to know others. It can feel a little daunting but it’s worth it for the support, connection and sense of belonging it can bring.