Relationships and Mental Health

The importance of healthy communities

This week, being mental health week, I thought it was a good time to stop and reflect on all the things that maintain mental good health in my life. Good mental health can mean many things to many people but when I think of my own mental health I tend to think in terms of the things that contain, sustain, support and energise me.  I think in terms of ways I support myself to stay in a place of emotional and mental balance in the midst of the challenges and stresses of life and I also think in terms of my environment, and from my perspective as a relationships counsellor, the people around me support me and fill my tank.

Researcher, Dr Brene Brown states that we are, “hard-wired for connection with others and that our greatest human need is for belonging, acceptance and love.” Therefore having healthy relationships and connection with others has very protective power when it comes to mental health as it goes right to the core of our most basic human needs. We all need love and we all fear rejection. This makes us human. This basic need and basic fear levels and connects us all.

So what are healthy relationships and how to do they support, contain, sustain and engerise us? 

Healthy relationships are the ones that are supportive but non-possessive.  Sue Johnson, adult attachment theorist and founder of Emotion-Focused Therapy, describes these types of relationships as stabilising as when we reach for our loved one they are there for us but in a way that promotes both individual security and autonomy rather than a feeling of being controlled, ignored or dismissed. Further, healthy relationships provide a level of stability and yet room for both individual and relational change and growth. 

Healthy relationships are a place in which we can find acceptance warts and all and yet also experience challenge and a reality check when we need it. These kinds of relationship can be in our lives in many forms and at different levels. In fact, the research would suggest that no one person or relationship can meet these needs for us: good mental health often exists within a community or a web of connections. 

We can work to create these kinds of relationships in our marriage or partnership, in our family, with significant friends, in the workplace and in our church or faith community.

We can be intentional in making quality relationships with our neighbours and those in our local community.

We can also use social media for good and create healthy connections that stretch the miles through technology. 

By making a space that is inclusive of others, mental health becomes something we build and sustain together as a community.

Caring for and being intentional in our relationships is a powerful step we can all take to fight back the darkness of mental illness.


Brown, B (2010) The Gifts of imperfection: let go of who you think you supposed to be and embrace who you are. Your guide to a wholehearted life, Minnesota: Hazelden

Johnson, S (2008) Hold me tight: seven conversations for a lifetime of love, New York: Hachette Book Group.

Posted on 08 October 2014 in - Library - Relationships

Marcia Watts

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