The term “community” can be used and applied in different ways. It depends on the person and their point of view. But, all of it, every meaning, will encompass one positive attribution: It is all about “connection.”
Community is not about an organization or a group of people located where you are, it's a connected feeling to other people. Human beings are social creatures. We crave involvement, attention, and the complex intermingling of others to feel satisfied.
People who suffer from mental health disorders, if isolated for too long, can feel like they are drowning in their own thoughts and feelings. By engaging in some sort of community involvement, whether it is counseling sessions with others just like them, projects in their local community or activities with family and friends, it helps them break out of the mental bondage and enjoy the positive side of life.
Community involvement is all about support, engagement and the feeling of belonging. Being isolated can plummet a person with mental health conditions or disorders into a pit of despair. It can make their symptoms exponentially worse, not only in their mental and emotional state but it can wear on them physically as well. Being a part of community involvement does the exact opposite. It can pull a person out of the pit of despair and not only have a positive impact on their mental and emotional health but also improve their physical well-being as they find a sense of consistent purpose and value.
A common symptom of a variety of mental health disorders tends to be the feeling of loneliness or helplessness. When you belong to a community, and you are involved in activities with that community, you feel like you belong to it. It gives you the ability to feel a sense of purpose and worth. It helps people escape their daily lives, their troubling thoughts, and that lingering loneliness. There is nothing a person needs to do to change the community or to change themselves in order to be a part of the community; instead it is a mutually beneficial embracing of appreciation.
Everyone needs a support system. For some people, it is just their immediate family. For others, it is their extended family and friends. But if you feel as though your inner circle of family and friends don't quite understand your mental illness, it can be hard for you to achieve that feeling of support. Being a part of a community is something that can restore the sense of support and security. It's hard to face difficult situations and personal struggles alone. Just the fact that you belong to a group that can make you feel supported and encouraged, can really enhance your positive outlook on life.
When a person searches for that sense of connection in a community setting, there are a few things that they should be looking for. It is important for a person who suffers from mental illness to feel empowered by choosing their surroundings.
For instance, a person who has very strong beliefs, values or interests, is not going to be happy if they are in a community environment that goes against their core value system. They need people with common interests, common goals and shared values.
Being together with like-minded people is going to be very rewarding in both the short term and the long term. Creating a connection with other people who have common interests, can build deep-rooted and long-lasting relationships despite the small differences they may have. In a community where everyone is sharing the same values and beliefs, the small things (such as mental or physical differences) are overlooked or dismissed, and the primary focus are the core values and beliefs that hold them all together. Community involvement brings them closer and strengthens them in their community. It solidifies the empowering sense of unity.