Samriti Makkar Midha, a Mumbai- based clinical psychologist, points out that support isn’t just about received support but perceived support as well. She further elucidates, “One may receive support from people around them (like in the form of advice, being available, financial assistance) but what is important is for it to be perceived as support too.” According to her, perceived support is when one feels they can depend on this support system, and it’s coming from a place of care, love, and intention of being there for the person. Perceived social support has been associated with better psychological well being, better mental health, better adjustment, greater resilience, and the ability to cope with stressful situations, adds Midha. “In my experience as a therapist, I have observed that people with strong support systems (perceived & received) cope better with physical ailments, the better prognosis on treatments including for cancer, clinical disorders and bouncing back from stressful events of their life – loss of job, loss of relationships, the demise of a significant person,” she says.
Additionally, support systems build accountability. They enable people to break away from unhealthy behaviours and dependence on substances, change habits, and achieve desired goals. Research has also shown that people who are happiest, healthier and have long life expectancy have great support systems, she adds.
Unfortunately, it is harder to find and retain a support system today than ever before. Multiple factors, especially our highly mediated world, are responsible for this. Bonerjee, for instance, blames the “unholy trinity of the internet, social media and smartphones”, which, in his opinion, “have ironically not helped bring people any closer to one another. If anything, they have primarily accentuated our differences and triggered within us feelings of intense jealousy, envy and greed for more material wealth.”
Midha adds that since the primary mode of communication is through different virtual platforms/applications like Zoom, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Slack, “we are more disconnected than ever,” she remarks. She adds that one can now go for days and weeks without talking to people. “We have lost the skill of having an authentic conversation, sharing our thoughts and emotions and being vulnerable in relationships for fear of not having a grip on our lives in an otherwise ‘insta-perfect world’,” she muses.