Helpful Tips When You Do Not Have an Encouraging Support System

Last Updated: 21 May 2019

What do you do when you don’t have the positive and encouraging support of your family and/or friends?

Support Group - Helpful Tips When You Do Not Have an Encouraging Support System

Research shows that when those of us with mental health challenges have a good support system of family and friends, we actually do better than those who do not have a support system. It only makes sense. After all, as it is with any challenges in life, we all do better with the support of family and friends. The support of my wife, family, and close friends was key in encouraging me and helping me to learn to live well in spite of having a bipolar disorder.

So, what do you do when you have no positive and encouraging support from your family and/or friends?

  1. Choose to work through your hurt from the lack of support from your family and/or friends. You can’t change people. Sometimes we have to just accept the fact that family and friends do not understand nor are they helpful; you resenting it won’t change them and will only end up holding you back.
  2. Choose to find and establish the type of encouraging positive support system that you need. How?a. Look for a positive, helpful, principled mental health recovery peer support group, in person or online. A support group is a great place to find friends who can be positive and supportive to whom you can be accountable on a regular basis. (For example, Fresh Hope now has support group meetings online so no matter where you live you can find a positive and encouraging mental health support group.)b. Finding a local peer support specialist is also another possibility for a positive support system.c. Other places to find good friends are at church, a health club, the gym, and with special interest groups.

Remember, you and I become like the five people we spend the most time with; therefore choose friends carefully.

In spite of having a great support group of a spouse, family, and friends, I’ve also had an accountability group of peers who have held me accountable for my mental health recovery and doing the things that are best for me and for my family.   This accountability group has been key in my recovery support system. They have had access to my doctor and my wife. My wife and doctor have also had access to them and to one another. I call it my “circle of accountability” which hems me in and keeps me honest.

While it’s not always been comfortable; my accountability group has empowered me to live well in the long run. Let’s be honest, too often you and I can easily tell the doctor one thing and our spouse or friends something else; only telling people what we want them to know. And while it took a lot of trust initially in the individuals who have made up my accountability group, it has served me very well.

From my perspective, it imperative for you and me to have a positive and encouraging support system and accountability. And as disappointing and hurtful as it is to have a lack of support from friends and/or family members, you can’t let that keep you from finding the support system you need. Yes, it will take effort to do so. But the effort will pay off.

What about you? Do you have the support of family and friends? If not, have you been able to establish a support system for yourself? If so, where? How?

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About the author
Brad Hoefs is the founder of Fresh Hope, a national network of faith-based peer support groups for those who have mental health challenges and also for their loved ones. He is a certified Intentional Peer Specialist, and also serves on the State of Nebraska Advisory Committee on Mental Health. Brad was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in 1995. One of Brad’s passions is to empower peers to live a full and rich life in spite of a mental health challenge. Brad’s blog is “Living Well!” He is the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis. He has a B.A. in Communications and a Masters of Divinity. Brad has been married to his wife, Donna, since 1979. They have two adult married children and love being grandparents to the grandkids! He is the pastor of Community of Grace in Elkhorn, Nebraska. He also helped start a website called What I Did to Recover that encourages and empowers those who have a mental health diagnosis to live well in spite of their mental health struggles.
  1. “If you don’t have support, choose to work through your hurt” HOW? Do you think I would have been desperate enough to Google this and end up at this article if it was that easy? “If you don’t have an oboe teacher, instead choose to know how to play the clarinet”? No.

  2. I have recently split from my partner who suffers from bipolar..i 100%!blame myself for the outcome of our relationship.she had told me she suffered from it and I never looked into the aspects of it,even thought she had sent me links to how to deal with people living with it.i never read the information properly and now feel as if I’ve left her down so badly,it’s breaking my heart.everything I’ve read so far as regards to help deal with a situation,I completely cocked it up but responding in the complete opposite of how i should have dealt with it.if I had have known as much about the condition in the beginning as I do now,thing would have been so much different.ive lost the love of my life through lack of understanding and the partners of those suffering with this condition,please read up on as much information as possible and not make the horrible mistake I did.

  3. Your comment about resentful is spot on. I lost my spouse, my best friend, my child, my cat and eventually my career. I knew I was going at it alone but I never knew how alone I’d be.
    In my culture when a person experiences death and especially a spouse or child. You surround that person and don’t let them go at it alone.You bring food. Offer to do errands. The neighbors drop off dishes.
    My supportive family was passed away or estranged. Friends stopped calling before my spouse died. I was out of town working and my spouse was with me. I asked one of my husband’s friends to come. She had talked to me everyday during this process. She wouldn’t come for two weeks. I waited for her to come. It was sad. I cooked for her took her out. It wasn’t the same as circle of family and friends helping you find your footing back into your life. I wanted human contact. The one person I could have grieved with came over to sell me life insurance and then refused to take my callsPeople avoided me. I reached out to make new support and was rejected. I even enlisted a therapist who never made our emergency phone appointment. I give up. I don’t want an accountability circle. I tried to get help through my insurance and my doctor blew the authorization. Due to confidential reasons I am seen out of town. I am going to get help to where my one supportive friend is. I’ve lived in cities where I could make friends. They are unaffordable now.
    I was raised in an interdependent style which is gone.

  4. I’ve never known family, the closest was the AirForce, my suggestion to anyone who want’s to leave their support system is, do it! It has become very popular, and will definitely grow you up quick AF. When you are looking back in regret for what you threw away, the tears should blind you, after that, you are finally free, I say leave him, and don’t give any reason, that should lead him to the bar, and then DUI court. Or you could crash some other marriage and poach another branch reacher like yourself. Anyway sky’s the limit. Folks in first world countries don’t deserve the things they take for granted. But I do, and will gladly and gratefully do it

  5. My husband doesn’t understand and provide the support I need both financially and emotionally, I feel trapped and don’t know how to get out of this marriage as I am afraid I might end up being alone.

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