This will come as no surprise to a lot of us; we have a natural inclination toward relationships, instinctively knowing on some level that they’re what really matter in life. The evidence is affirming this instinct and telling us that it’s a good one, we should trust it! People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected.
In my early career when working as a health and social care worker, I learnt that reaching out to really connect with somebody is one of the single most important things you can do.
People require support from health and social care services for many different reasons - living with a disability, managing a long term condition or mental health problem. All of these issues bring with them the very real risk of social isolation and loneliness. As someone's support needs increase relationships can all too often break down and a visit from a Support worker may be the only contact that someone has all day or even all week.
What may be a daily part of the job for a support worker can take on much more meaning for someone who is isolated. To enter into someone's life when they are at a vulnerable point is a responsibility but also a great privilege. Genuinely reaching out to someone and taking the time to understand their life is one of the most important things we can do from one human to another.
We have focused so much on professional boundaries over the years that we risk losing our humanity within this. When working to support others we need to have the space and back up of our employers to develop authentic relationships that are compassion focused, whilst of course still be clear on the importance of our duty of care to the individual. We need to create and support a workforce that are mature enough to strike this balance and to open themselves up to creating meaningful connections with the people we work with.
The Mental Health Foundation is calling on us all to make ‘Relationships Resolutions’. People who make a resolution will receive a text on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, checking in to see how they have done and encouraging them to carry their resolutions forward into the New Year. For more information on Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 visit the Mental Health Foundation.