I’ve recently completed training in a new therapeutic modality that I’m excited to offer my clients: EMDR. I wanted to learn it because it’s been proven to be one of the most effective treatments for trauma, whether recent or from childhood, and it often works quickly, unlike traditional talk therapy. It also aligns with my belief that the mind-body knows how to heal itself, without drugs, if given time and the right conditions.
So what is EMDR? The initials stand for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which doesn’t tell you much, other than there’s eye movement involved. It’s based on the Adaptive Information Processing Model, which assumes that all of our experience is stored in neural networks in the brain, called “memories.” Trauma causes disruption to the normal processing of experience, leading to traumatic memories being stored in unprocessed form, keeping them stuck in kind of a time capsule, instead of being integrated into the rest of our memories. When this happens, it can lead to symptoms like anxiety, phobias, depression and addiction, as well as a variety of health problems and difficulties with normal functioning in our lives.
EMDR works in a couple of ways: the eye movements seem to activate activity in different parts of the brain, not unlike the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, when we dream. This allows memory fragments stored in different locations to be released and integrated. Secondly, the EMDR therapist guides the client in simultaneously staying grounded in the present moment while recalling the traumatic event. This dual attention to past and present helps release what’s stuck, relieve the distress, and lay the memory to rest.
As part of the training, my therapist classmates and I practiced on each other, so I got to experience first-hand what EMDR can do to help relieve the distress of traumatic memories. In one case, I chose to focus on my earliest memory: lying in a hospital bed, alone, looking at the pattern that the sunlight streaming through the trees outside the window made on the hospital-green wall, and telling myself not to cry. I was not yet two years old.
I’d recalled this memory many years ago, when I was in therapy as a grad student, and my therapist and I had processed how I’d felt and what it meant, from an attachment-individuation perspective (e.g. I’d already learned that Mom and Dad weren’t always there, and that “good girls don’t cry”).
I didn’t think there was anything left to process, but turns out I was wrong: as I began the back-and-forth eye movements, suddenly I felt a strong sense of constriction in my chest, and it became harder to breathe. I reported that to my therapist, and was instructed to “go with that,” so I did. What came up over the next few minutes were more intense body sensations of chest constriction, a feeling of fear that I wouldn’t be able to breathe, and then the thought, “but it’s okay to cry, because this is scary.”
Which of course it was – not just scary to be in the hospital, and left all alone, but also because of why I was there. I had pneumonia! The EMDR process allowed me to access those long-stored body memories, just as if I was two years old again, yet because I was simultaneously present and grounded in my adult self, I was able to offer my child self some compassion, and gain a new perspective.
In another practice session, I chose a more recent event, and a “little t” trauma: being intentionally excluded from a family gathering. I pictured the worst part, which had been seeing a photo afterwards, with everyone smiling and raising a champagne glass, over the caption “To Rebecca.” When I’d seen that, it felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. I had told myself to forgive and let it go, but it still bothered me. So I decided to see what EMDR could do with that.
What happened was fascinating. Over the course of several minutes of back-and-forth eye movements, I felt a range of emotions: hurt, sadness, confusion, even a moment of rage. I had the thought, “I don’t belong,” followed by the thought, “but I do belong, here in this room, and in the world.” And the most interesting part: the image of the photo in my mind got blurry, faded, and grew smaller, until by the end of the session it was the size of a postage stamp. Now that’s how to let go of an unpleasant memory!
As I recall both of the original memories now, I can still picture what happened, and remember what I thought and felt at the time. But there’s no longer an emotional charge, no uncomfortable feeling in the gut, no distress whatsoever. My mind is just saying, “so that’s what happened.”
Another neat thing about EMDR is that it’s customized to the individual client’s needs. There are a variety of ways to do the eye movements, so each client can select one that’s comfortable for them. Therapy can proceed fairly quickly, or more gradually, depending on the client’s comfort. And best of all, the client doesn’t even need to describe the traumatic event in any detail to the therapist in order for the therapist to guide them through the reprocessing. This can allow trauma victims to heal without having to be re-traumatized by talking about what happened.
So if you’d like to learn more about EMDR, or are ready to start EMDR therapy, please contact me!
(Photo taken at the San Damiano Retreat Center, one of my favorite healing places.)Learn More
I have written about depression, including my own experience with it, many times over the years, yet I have never written about suicide. But after a week in which there were two celebrity suicides, the CDC issued a report on the dramatic increase in suicide rates across the US, and people are talking about suicide on social media, I realized two things: first, there is a lack of understanding about the causes of suicide, probably the result of our natural aversion to talking about it. Second, as a mental health professional, I am guilty of avoiding the topic with my own patients.
Perhaps we need a #MeToo movement for depression and suicide, and maybe we’re seeing the beginning of that now. I believe it’s healthy for our society that people are talking about it, however I have heard from some of my patients that it hasn’t been easy for them – either to be reminded of what may have been an extremely painful time in their lives, or to read the ignorant things that people are saying about those who would consider, attempt, or complete a suicidal act.
Suicide, like rape, has been a mostly taboo topic in our society. To take one’s life is a sin in many religions, and even people who aren’t particularly religious can be very judgmental about it. If you haven’t ever felt suicidal, it can be difficult to comprehend what it’s like to feel that way. It’s frightening to face a friend or loved one telling you they feel such despair, and if you haven’t had training in how to talk someone off the ledge, you may feel powerless to help.
Also, our healthcare system works against people seeking help for suicidal thinking, because if you tell your doctor or therapist, you could be hospitalized against your will and prescribed some heavy-duty medications which may actually make you feel worse. So people learn to NOT tell their doctors or therapists – and we learn to not probe too much, for fear of alienating our patients.
So, this is a serious issue that we need to be discussing, yet it’s often an intensely uncomfortable conversation to have, about a complicated condition for which there aren’t clear and easy answers. In this article, l offer some answers to the “why?” as well as to the “what can we do?” (Apologies in advance for the length – I may be overcompensating.)
What is depression?
Not everyone who attempts or commits suicide is depressed – but at least 80% are, so let’s start here. Depression is part of the human condition, and exists on a spectrum, anchored by suicidal thinking and behavior on one end, with ordinary moments of melancholy on the other, and a very wide range of symptoms and experiences in between. Everyone can relate to feeling sad, unhappy, or discouraged at some point in their lives. We might even have a random thought, “what’s the point of going on?” Yet most of us will never cross that invisible line from ordinary sadness to a mental disorder, or the line after that, into suicidal acts.
And yes, depression is a mental disorder, because it involves distortions of thinking and perception. However, it is also a physical disorder, because it affects energy, sleep, and appetite. And it’s an emotional disorder, because it affects mood and involves powerful negative emotions like sorrow and shame. Finally, it’s a spiritual disorder, because it involves loss of faith, hope, and meaning. We need to keep all of this in mind when we consider how to effectively treat it.
It’s an equal-opportunity illness – anyone can get it, as the recent suicides of celebrity designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain have proven. It might be situational, developing out of grief over a significant loss; or it may be endogenous, existing in one’s genetic make-up. It can also be a learned response to stress and trauma. It often co-occurs with other disorders, like addictions, ADHD, and OCD. It can be temporary, lasting for days to weeks, or it can be a life-long condition. And it can show up differently in different people, or in different ways in the same person at different times.
Depression can be difficult to diagnose
Often people who are depressed don’t know what’s wrong with them. Or they do know, but feel some shame or embarassment, because it’s still regarded as a weakness in our society. So it can be difficult to recognize, both for the person who is suffering with it, as well as for the people around that person. I myself experienced this in the past year – I failed to see the signs that I was sliding into a seasonal depression until I’d been in it for awhile, and no one around me saw it either.
If you don’t know what’s wrong, or you feel embarassed or weak about it, you’re not likely to seek out medical care. And even if you do go to the doctor, the doctor may not recognize that you’re depressed, or to what extent. Most MDs and other healthcare professionals don’t get a lot of education and training in how to diagnose and treat depression, so often they’ll simply write a prescription for an anti-depressant medication without exploring other treatment options.
And it can be difficult to treat
Since the advent of Prozac in the 1970’s, we have developed an over-reliance on medications called SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) as the primary treatment for depression. This is one of the factors that has led to the increase in diagnosed depression as well as suicide rates.
Why? First, SSRIs don’t work for everyone – they may not work at all for some, or help just a little for others. Many depressed patients have to try multiple medications over months before they find one that helps. And these meds come with some pretty undesirable long-term side-effects, like loss of libido and weight gain, in addition to these commonly experienced initial effects: headaches, nausea, dizziness, jitters, irritability and insomnia. Is it any wonder that 50% of people either never start their prescription, or stop taking it without going back to their doctor to ask for other options?
Second, in some cases, taking an SSRI can actually increase suicidal thinking and behavior. The American Medical Association recently published a list of medications that may trigger suicidal symptoms, and every single antidepressant is listed!
Not everyone who experiences depression has suicidal thinking or behavior. I never have, and many of my depressed patients haven’t. But among those who have, there is a much greater risk that they will attempt or succeed at suicide during a depressive episode, so it is really important to identify whether a depressed person is having thoughts, mental images, or impulses related to suicide before recommending an SSRI. This means being willing to ask questions that most people, even doctors and mental health professionals, typically avoid.
The deadly combination of factors that leads to suicide
Research on suicidal depression has identified three key factors that increase an individual’s risk of suicide: the first is having a strong “fear of losing control of emotions,” which is often present in people who are successful, perfectionistic, and used to being in control. The second is an inability to tolerate “emotional intensity,” or strong negative emotions like shame and despair. And finally, there is a “sense of urgency to take action” to relieve the emotional pain, which feels like it will never end. These factors intensify the feeling of being trapped in despair with no way out.
I recently saw Brian Copeland’s solo performance, “The Waiting Period,” about his own battle with suicidal depression. He tells the story of reaching a point where he could see no way out of his emotional pain and despair, and went to buy a gun, but had to wait the mandatory 10 days to pick it up. So he couldn’t act immediately, and by the time the waiting period was over, he had found enough reasons to live that he didn’t go back to the gun store. His story is a powerful one, and he’s been giving free performances at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco as a way of encouraging more people to talk about depression and suicide. He has started a GoFundMe campaign to support his outreach efforts, if you’d like to help – or go see his show!
The survivors and their stories
Hearing directly from someone who has experienced suicidal depression and overcome it is one of the best ways to gain a better understanding. How about hearing from a guy who actually jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge – and survived? Kevin Hines did, 16 years ago, and went on to become a suicide prevention advocate, motivational speaker, and filmmaker. His is another powerful story, and his film “The Ripple Effect,” features suicide prevention experts and other suicide survivors.
Another survivor’s story that I came across uexpectedly, while researching resources for suicide prevention, is Stacy Freedenthal’s. Dr. Freedenthal is a psychotherapist, an associate professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, and the author of “Helping the Suicidal Person: Tips and Techniques for Professionals.” She also wrote an essay in the New York Times about her own suicide attempt that she had kept secret for 22 years.
And she runs a website, SpeakingofSuicide.com, which has one of the most comprehensive sources of information and resources I’ve seen.
Treatment that helps
Any effective approach to treating suicidal depression must address the distorted thinking and perception that leads someone to feel trapped, while also impairing their problem-solving ability. Cognitive therapy is very effective at this, as Judith Beck wrote in a recent New York Times article.
But simply addressing cognitive distortions is not enough. Remember? Depression is also an emotional, physical, and spiritual disorder in which people feel alone, ashamed, and trapped. So any treatment that offers social inclusion and support, compassion, and physical activity, along with concrete steps that can be taken to climb out of that pit, will help.
One of the simplest approaches is compassionate support in the form of listening without judgment, help to discern the difference between unsolvable and solvable problems, and offering concrete assistance toward solving the solvable problems in the person’s life. This is what happens in 12-step and other support groups. (For a list, go here.)
An effective approach to treating depression that I am trained in is Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Adding mindfulness to cognitive therapy offers specific tools to address key factors in suicidal depression: the inability to tolerate painful emotions, and the impulsivity to act. Some of the psychologists who developed the MBCT curriculum have recently developed a more intensive curriculum for people at risk of suicide.
In summary – if you’re still with me – suicide and suicidal depression are serious and complex issues that we have to stop being afraid to talk about. Now that the conversation has started, we need to find ways to keep it going, so that we don’t let depression have the last word.
(The photo above is by Thomas Hawk, found on his Flickr site, and used with permission. To see more of his incredible photos, go to thomashawk.com)Learn More
I’m a silver lining person, usually able to see the positive in any situation, no matter how glum or dire, but I confess that it has been increasingly difficult for me to maintain my optimism in light of what’s been happening in our world over the past year.
Each natural disaster, each horrific mass shooting, each bizarre pronouncement from the tweeter-in-chief is worse than the last. It has felt like we are witnessing the complete destruction of the planet and unraveling of the social order. As a result, I found myself falling into a deeper-than-usual seasonal depression this winter. I had to use the tools I have learned, and have taught others for years, to get out of it – and I’m here to tell you that they work!
Before talking about what worked, I should mention that there were things I did which didn’t help, in fact, they probably made my depression worse, and kept it going longer than necessary. I engaged in some unhelpful behaviors that were attempts to distract myself from how I was feeling, or control the people and things in my immediate environment. These included retail therapy (buying things I didn’t need), fantasizing about the future (more than usual), and trying to plan “perfect” family gatherings (which of course didn’t happen, setting me up for more depression). I don’t usually engage in these behaviors when I’m feeling good, but they’re old habits, and at the time it didn’t register that they were unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Despite my professional training and experience, I was in denial. I didn’t want to see that I was beginning to get depressed, though there were obvious signs and symptoms: sleep problems, from difficulty falling asleep to waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep, which led to low energy, both physical and mental, and increased worry about all of the things that I have no control over, including climate change, politics, natural disasters, and death.
After a few weeks, I admitted to myself that I was depressed, but I didn’t tell anyone else, because I was aware of feeling shame. (This shouldn’t happen to me, I’m a mental health professional, I help other people who are depressed, but not me, I know better, etc.) By now I noticed other symptoms: ruminating about what had triggered the depression and how to get rid of it; social withdrawal – I had to push myself to connect, but it was increasingly difficult to do, and my efforts often seemed to backfire, resulting in a lot of negative self-talk (I’m terrible at networking, I miss social cues, etc.). Conversation became a chore. And I still wasn’t sleeping well, so I was consuming more caffeine and chocolate, as well as high-sugar, high-fat holiday treats, which also fed the depression. My body was lethargic, my mind was sluggish, and I just felt completely stuck.
Finally I accepted that the depression wasn’t going to just go away. I remembered what I teach: MOTIVATION WORKS BACKWARDS IN DEPRESSION. So I pushed myself to do things that would give me a sense of mastery (simple tasks like cleaning the kitchen) or pleasure (driving myself to Half Moon Bay so I could soak up some sunshine and ocean air, and be around other people who were enjoying life, even if I couldn’t yet). Once I’d done those things, I was able to build on that little bit of momentum to plan more physical activity as well as initiate social connection.
I focused on the basics, forcing myself to get back into my regular exercise and healthy eating routines. I scheduled lunch dates with friends, and made a point of telling them I’d been depressed, rather than pretend I was fine. Taking walks in nature, whether or not the sun was shining, helped a lot, as did reaching out to my network of friends and colleagues, many of whom have experienced depression themselves, for some F2F connection. Knowing that I’m not alone, other people have felt this way too, was super helpful. I’m sure the fact that the days were getting longer helped, too. By late February, I was back to my normal good mood and energy.
A word about mindfulness meditation and the role it can play in relieving depression: my own experience echoed what the research has shown, which is that when you’re in the middle of a depressive episode, it’s actually pretty difficult to do formal sitting meditation. This is also true if you’re in the middle of a panic attack or highly anxious. Even if you’ve been practicing meditation regularly for many years, as I have, it becomes difficult to access the benefits of practice during these times. So I didn’t force myself to sit on the cushion every day.
But I did practice mindfulness in other ways:
• I acknowledged what I was thinking and feeling, rather than ignoring it.
• I recognized that my thoughts and perceptions were negatively skewed, so I tried to not take them too seriously.
• I practiced grounding myself in the present moment by focusing on my breath and body throughout the day.
• I practiced mindfulness of daily routine activities, using my five senses.
• I remembered to do lovingkindness practice, and offered myself some self-compassion.
• And I sought out opportunities to do sitting meditation with others at meditation centers and yoga studios.
And finally, a disclaimer: my intention in sharing my experience is to help reduce the stigma that is still so common in our society around mental health issues. By no means do I intend this as medical advice for you, the reader, or anyone else. This is my story, and these are the things I did that helped me get better. Depression comes in many different flavors, with different causes as well, which is why it is so important that anyone who is suffering from it should talk to a medical doctor as well as a mental health professional about what might be the most effective treatments for them. The important thing is to reach out and get the help you need! If you don’t know where to start, take a look at my Resources page, or read some of the Articles I’ve written about help for depression.Learn More
This fall it seemed every week brought a new calamitous disaster: hurricanes, massive flooding, earthquakes, firestorms, and the worst mass shooting in US history. Because the topic of social support was on my mind, I was particularly tuned in to how people support one another during and after a disaster. Here are some of my observations:
During the disaster
In the face of immediate, life-threatening danger, people act instinctively – to run, hide, save themselves and their loved ones, including pets. This is the fight-or-flight response in action. Yet a few people “freeze” instead, becoming paralyzed, unable to act to save themselves. Why? According to Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, if the threat is perceived as being too big, causing the person to feel overwhelmed and powerless, the nervous system will short-circuit the normal fight-or-flight response and cause a state of “feigned death” as a last-ditch effort to save one’s life.
We see this freeze response in victims of child abuse or other trauma, and it may persist into adulthood if the trauma has not been treated. According to Attachment Theory, people who received adequate caring, love, and nurturing in their families of origin have a more positive outlook and expectation that others will help them; whereas those who experienced abuse, neglect, or trauma as children may not be able to trust others to help.
In a disaster, some people act heroically, risking their own safety in order to help or save others’ lives. Those who have military training and first responders do what is counter-intuitive: they run toward the danger, whether from fire or an active shooter. They leave their home to burn in order to help others save theirs. How do they do it? Their training overrides instinct. My heartfelt thanks to all of the first responders, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and healthcare professionals who risk their lives and safety to save others!
Reading the accounts of what people chose to take with them when they evacuated from the fires, I noted that some grabbed laptops and important documents, while others took a load of clothes from the laundry. I wondered: if I had only a minute or two to evacuate my home, what would I take? It’s a worthwhile exercise to think about what’s important and where is it located, perhaps even to rehearse a “grab and go” drill. Of course, disasters are an exercise in accepting the impermanence of all things.
After the disaster
Following a disaster, those whose lives were threatened may be in a state of shock. How long this state lasts – from hours to weeks – is partly a function of the magnitude of the person’s loss, but more importantly, a function of their inner resourcefulness, coping skills, and resilience. This is the time when social connection/social support is most critical.
How the community responds is also a function of the magnitude of the loss as well as the community’s resourcefulness. If a few people have lost their homes, neighbors will readily take them in. If an entire neighborhood has been obliterated, there is more confusion about where to go for help. Resources may be plentiful, as with the Texas hurricane/floods and the Northern California fires; or they may be scarce, as with the devastastion of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
People are often at their best following a disaster – we are generous, we are kind, we go out of our way to help. We reach out to share our own food, clothing, money, and shelter, as well as offering it in bulk donations to community organizations. Human beings are most inclined to help, and are most generous with, those who they see as like themselves. We could see this phenomenon in its ugliest form in Trump, who treated Texans magnanimously and Puerto Ricans like untouchables, but most people are inclined this way. We feel the strongest social bonds with people we are related to or know personally, so it’s easier to offer support. However, if an entire community needs support, and especially if we’re connected with them only through social media, we may feel social overload and even disaster fatigue.
The downside of social support
Humans are tribal in nature, for eons we have organized ourselves in tribes, groups, families, and mutual aid societies, to support one another. This can be a wonderful, positive phenomenon, but it has a dark side, too: where resources appear scarce, we fight other tribes and groups to get or keep what we deem as ours, and we rationalize why we shouldn’t provide support to “foreigners,” forgetting that all of the perceived differences amount to less than 1% of our total human DNA.
Social relationships can be sources of stress and strain rather than benefit. While in general, being married conveys health benefits, singles fare better than unhappily married people, and having poor quality relationships is worse for your health than being alone and socially isolated.
The importance of emotional support
A need that often goes unrecognized in those who survive a life-threatening experience or lose their home is emotional support. Survivors may need to talk about their loss, their fear and trauma – or they may not be able to talk about it, yet still need someone who can understand their emotional pain and offer support, whether through physical comfort or simply a kind presence.
It is easier to give than receive. Most people find it much easier to offer help, than to be the one asking for help. Research on the health benefits of social support shows that while giving support is correlated with health and living longer, receiving support conveys no longevity benefit. Perhaps this is because it’s stressful to ask for help, or because those who receive support are already suffering more ill-effects of stress.
Having more Facebook friends seems to convey health and mental health benefits, because people perceive plenty of social support being available. However, during a disaster, social media users may feel overwhelmed with the volume of support requests, and at the same time obligated to provide support, even while they may be in need of support themselves.
The relative effectiveness of social support depends not only on the kind of support provided, but also on the relationship of the receiver to the giver. “Signficant others,” i.e., partners, immediate family, and close friends, are better suited to provide emotional support as well as instrumental support (money, help with tasks); while “similar others,” i.e., members of larger neighborhood, religious, or social media networks, may be more effective at providing knowledge and information as well as validation and empathy, especially when they have shared similar experiences.
When it comes to emotional support from social relationships, quality matters more than quantity. And research indicates that small acts of care (e.g., a few words of encouragement, an enthusiastic response to good news, being physically present and attuned) can have a profound impact on personal and relationship well-being, helping people to thrive after a disaster, not simply survive.
I read a startling statistic recently: that over 25% of Americans said they had no one in whom they could confide or share a personal problem. While I haven’t yet tracked down the original source of this factoid, I did find out it was from a survey done in 2004, and that in a similar survey from 1985, the average number of trusted confidantes that respondents reported was three.
This raised a number of questions in my mind: first, what would a more current survey show? If this is a downward trend, it seems like an alarming one. Second, since the first survey was taken before the Internet era, and the second when Facebook was in its infancy, what role has social media played in either eroding or boosting social support? And in either of these surveys, did they ask those folks about their health or mental health?
There’s an enormous amount of scientific research, over decades, documenting what most of us know intuitively: social connection significantly affects health, as well as mental health. We humans are social animals, after all, who need to be in connection with others, to varying degrees. Even when social interactions may become a source of stress, on the whole, people need people.
So I decided to conduct my own survey, just for fun. I’m not a scientist, just a curious person who enjoys reading scientific journal articles, and I found among them a well-validated questionnaire designed to identify two aspects of social support: the number of perceived supports in a person’s life, and the degree to which they are personally satisfying. I based the first six questions in my survey on that questionnaire.
Since I also wanted to know about the role of social media, and the connection to mental health, I added my own questions on those topics, while still striving to keep the survey brief. Then I had to figure out how to conduct the survey. I’m actually one of the few remaining people on the planet who is not on Facebook, so I turned instead to my email newsletter mailing list.
The preliminary results from my survey (as of 9/1/17) are posted below. If you haven’t taken the survey and would like to, it will be available until 11/13/17.
I strongly recommend that you take the survey first, and then read the results below, so that you aren’t influenced by social opinion.
SOCIAL SUPPORT SURVEY RESULTS
• 32 people responded
• I was very relieved to see that everyone reported they have someone to support them!
• Over 50% reported they know 3 – 5 people who they can really count on to listen when they need to talk. Of the rest, 19% know 1 – 2 people, 25% know 6 – 9, and there were two respondents who have 10 or more people they can count on to listen.
• In a crisis situation, every respondent knows someone who will help, even if they have to go out of their way to do so: 16% of respondents know 1 – 2 people, 37% know 3 – 5, 34% know 6 – 9, and 16% know 10 or more.
• When consoling is needed due to a major upset, 31% of respondents know 1 – 2 people they can count on, 44% know 3 – 5 people, 22% know 6 – 9 people, and one lucky person knows more than 10.
• The degree of satisfaction for each type of social support was consistently ranked at or above “fairly satisfied.”
• As to how people usually connect with their social supports, phone or face-to-face conversation were neck-and-neck favorites, at 87% and 84%. Texting (62%) and email (53%) were also popular, with only 9% using video chat and 19% using social media.
• Over 80% of respondents chose “face to face conversation” as the most satisfying.
• As a group, respondents ranked themselves as “mostly healthy” and “mostly resilient.”
• The majority of respondents were Baby Boomers (53%), followed by Gen X’ers (37%).
One thing I would do differently if I were to do this survey over: allow respondents the option to rank their preferred means of contact, rather than limiting them to one response. I wish I had also put a box for comments in the survey itself, although a few people did contact me directly with their feedback, including this one:
Face to face is the most obvious but I have found it is contextual. I have consoled and supported and been supported by many friends/acquaintances for example on social media and it has been effective and satisfying. Typically face to face is impractical or not appropriate to the relationship.
So thank you, everyone who responded! Besides satisfying my curiosity, I hope that taking the survey stimulated your thinking about your social support network, whether it’s to appreciate how many people you do have that you can count on in times of need, or to acknowledge that your network may need some boosting. And now you can compare your results with others, which is one of one of the many ways that people use social interactions – to see how we rank, and to find out whether other people feel the same way. It’s good for our health to know we’re not alone.
In the next post I will write about some really interesting research findings on social support and its role in health and mental health, so please come back and read!