At a recent conference on suicide prevention I heard one of the best analogies for depression. Understanding depression and isolation is like looking at a spider’s web; each strand of the web represents our social support system.
For the spider to survive it must build a web with many support strands. This allows for a wider catchment area and increases the chances of catching a fly and being able to eat, live and grow. Our lives are much like this; as we expand our support system we develop a catchment area for ideas, experience and growth. Each relationship we develop and reinforce –– such as work, community involvement, volunteering, clubs and activities –– strengthens our web.
Spiders that build webs with only a few strands are more aggressive. They understand that they have to protect the few strands they have and if a strand is broken its chances of falling increase exponentially. It must become angry and mean to keep from being mashed.
People have the same tendencies. If we build our support system with minimal strands we must be hyper-vigilant and stressed in protecting our smaller systems. When our entire system consists of only work and family and we have conflict at work the displeasure often carries over to family, and vice versa.
By expanding the webbing and adding more supports the spider is able to simply move to a more secure area of netting if one of his strands is broken. By expanding our support system we are able to refocus our mindset, focus our efforts on something other than the frustrations we are experiencing, and increase our resources to ultimately increase our chances of evolving beyond our stress.
Simple changes in our daily routines can improve our support system. Find your local resources and find those in need in your community. Socializing at local senior centers or volunteering to pick up litter can be useful ways to improve your weekly routines and improve your community.
In children, an especially important aspect of focus is the distinction between our social media outlets and our social support system.
Often in today’s society, children develop very limited social support systems.
A series of questions I often ask in practice goes like this: “How many friends do you have on Facebook?” Often I get answers in the hundreds to thousands. “What is your neighbor’s name?” Often I’m asked why they would want to know this? “If you have a fire in the night, will you blog about it or run to the nearest house for help? Wouldn’t it be good to know their name?” Often times this is followed by a look of comprehension.
Parents, by showing our children how to build a strong community we not only show them how to build their social web but we build a community that is strong and supportive.
Adding one community activity per week to your family’s routines can have significant impact on the mental health and social mindedness for generations to come. Local community resources include: Key Center Library, the Mustard Seed Project, Key Peninsula Free Clinic, Peninsula Youth Wrestling and many others in our area.