Most people would be familiar with the term “good social support”, and its positive influence on psychological wellbeing, but what does that actually mean? We decided to find out, and we discovered some useful information of what constitutes good social connection.
Social connection – the good support vs. the not so good.
The Vic Health web site www.vichealth.vic.gov.au defines social connection as comprising of people we know; the friends we confide in, the family we belong to and the community we live in. The need to belong, be connected and engaged in group and civic activities are intrinsic to mental health and wellbeing.
The importance of good social connection rises even higher as a priority when people are experiencing trauma or challenging life experiences. In fact good social connection is often the biggest indicator of a strong recovery in these types of circumstances.
Some people may have experienced having lots of people around them (including family members) and yet still feeling they have nobody to really talk to or confide in. To enable every CFA member to support their mates, colleagues, family and friends even better, we thought is useful to outline practical steps of what you can do to be a ‘good’ support person.
Leave your criticism behind – when somebody ‘opens up to you’ refrain from criticising their thoughts or feelings. Responses like “Just forget about it” or “Toughen up mate” will generally be unhelpful if somebody tries to talk to you about something that is bothering them. Their thoughts and feelings are valid, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. Active listening is the best thing you can do.
- Recognise their efforts – it can be challenging to offer a “well done” or “you did a great job out there” to others if you do not often receive praise for the great things you do. Consider the quote from Ghandi – “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Create a new culture or environment by starting to notice and verbalise your praise of others. You’ll be leading the way by creating a great environment that values effort and skill.
- Keep your advice – in general terms….to yourself. We’ve all had discussions with people who keep telling us what they know or what they’d do differently to you. Quite often it gives the impression that we are really not being listened to and that we’re just being talked at. Allow the other person to talk and when you’re sure they’ve finished offer 1 or 2 suggestions to help. A good support person will spend approximately 80-90% of their time listening.
- Think about what makes you feel connected – is it a catch up with mates or a phone call or visit from a friend when you’ve been unwell? If these sorts of interactions make you feel like you belong and feel connected, then consider how you can include and make other people feel connected in a similar way.
CFA’s Welfare Services may be the first contact point for people who need support outside of their normal networks. Remember, any CFA member or immediate family member can access Welfare Services at any time.
Welfare services are short term in nature. Members with long term clinical or complex needs will be linked to appropriate services where relevant, such as internal services (WorkCover or Volunteer Compensation) and external community based agencies.
- Peer support can be accessed through the Regional Duty Officer, Officer in Charge, Line Manager, the Peer Coordinator or via the CFA Welfare line (ph 1800 628 616)
- Chaplains can be contacted directly or by contacting Converge International on 1800 337 068
- Psychologists/Counsellors can be contacted directly by contacting PPC Worldwide on1300 361 008
Your brigade or workplace may be interested in a presentation of the Welfare Services Awareness Package. This is a facilitated discussion that provides valuable information about Welfare Services and how to support colleagues and mates who are experiencing challenging circumstances. If you would like to book a Welfare Services Awareness Package presentation or have any comments about the Welfare Services programs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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