How can community support help a person with mental illness?

Individual treatment linked to community support can save lives. Stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, in addition to the disorder itself, can cause severe emotional pain. Persons may feel hopeless and shunned. They may be unable to secure or hold a job. Even after beginning treatment, it may take considerable time to feel better.

But community support, from family members, caregivers, other concerned persons in the community, and help lines, for example, makes a difference. And reducing the discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses is the business of everyone in the community. Community support can fill a number of critical gaps. In some countries providing community support is a natural feature of the culture. In others, certain programs, including peer-support initiatives emerging in many countries, offer connections that can pierce through loneliness and provide encouragement, psychosocial support and often training in life skills, all of which can point to hope for more productive lives. When medications are administered, support from families and/or others in the community can help bridge the gap before the drugs take effect. In some areas in the world that lack sufficient primary or mental health care personnel, even in developed countries, community support may represent the state-of-the-art treatment available.

For any successful mental health treatment, the basic component is a close relationship with providers. You’ll need the ability to contact them during a crisis, but another component is having resources in community. Know if there are places to screen for being a danger to others or options for hospitalization. In times of increased stress, know about more intensive options like day hospitals and intensive outpatient programs. Suicide hotlines can help. There are a variety of resources but not all communities have them.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.