Are you one of the 14.8 million adults today suffering from clinical depression? This is the formal name for sadness that's persistent enough to interfere with your regular activities.

Coping With Clinical Depression

People with clinical depression often require the expertise of a mental health professional and a comprehensive treatment regime, according to Maren Conway, MA, of Alliant International University. She says that patients can also benefit from having good support network in place, since this can help people to feel less alone in their time of need.

But of course you don't have to be depressed to take advantage of a support network or other similar form of companionship.

"As social beings, we desire to feel interpersonally connected to our environment, therefore a trusted support network can be valuable for any individual," Conway explains, whether they have depression or not. She adds that for people who are at risk of developing depression "maintaining a feeling of connection and worthiness of interpersonal connection" may even be enough to head off the depression.

What Is a Support System?

Exactly what a support network looks like can be very different for different people. It can be anything from:

  • One or more friends who you can call at any time of the day or night if you need them.
  • A group of neighbors who catch a movie occasionally.
  • A more formal support group that's geared around a common problem, such as alcoholism or illnesses.

All of these forms of support networks, and many other variations, can be beneficial if they help you feel connected and part of something bigger.

When You Need Social Support

Such companionship can be especially essential during major life transitions and other times of stress, including career changes, relocation, divorce, or the end of a significant romantic relationship, Conway says. But even on a day-to-day basis, friends or more formal support groups can also help you to better tolerate the regular demands of your life, such as a crazy work schedule, cranky children, and marital frustrations.

Broaden Your Network

If you want to develop—or broaden out—your support system, it can help to look to some of the things you care about. For instance, if you love books, joining a book club may help you find like-minded people, while if your religion plays a significant role in your life, you might connect with others through your church, temple, or other religious organization.

The Health Benefits

While having a support network can be good for your mental health, it may also help you live longer, too, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

They examined data from the UK that tracked loneliness and social isolation among older folks and found that people who felt socially isolated had a higher risk of mortality than their counterparts. (The role that loneliness has in mortality seemed less significant in this study although others have found it to have more connection.) These findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the United States of America in spring 2013. They call attention to the fact that being around others may encourage you to take better care of yourself as you age and this can help you maintain better health and ultimately live longer.

Maren Conway, MA, reviewed this article.




Conway, Maren, MA, Alliant International University. Email interview. 20 May 2013.

"Social Isolation, Loneliness, and All Cause Mortality In Older Men and Women." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the United States of America. 110: 15. (9 April 2015): 5797-5801. Web. 27 May 2013.