Question: I have been living with depression for years. I see a doctor and a therapist and I have been able to get through school and hold down a 9-5 job. My problem is that I have no family in the U.S. and have no social life.
-Tim Surley, Flushing, NY
Answer: Tim, any social worker will tell you that social environment plays a key role in every individual’s mental wellbeing. That being said, unfortunately the key services provided in mental healthcare do not address this area.
However, I am glad to tell you that there are options and opportunities that you can try on your own that can help you create a social life. First of all, there is a model called a psychosocial clubhouse which provides just this; a supportive place for individuals with mental illness to hang out and create social connections. In Queens, the Venture House is a great example of an organization that provides this kind of environment. However, wherever you live, there are hundreds of psychosocial clubhouses throughout the United States.
Another thing that has helped a lot of people in recent years is the advent of social networking and specialized online forums. For example, psychcentral.com has a great forum for people with mental illness to meet others and create social connections. Facebook and Twitter also has a lot of groups and chat rooms for individuals with mental illness. Upon checking out these sites, I was surprised and happy to discover that these forums were not being used just for support but also for social connections.
The bottom line is that the mental healthcare system doesn’t directly address this issue, but with personal initiative and some internet know how; you can find several areas to grow your own social network.