The importance of having and maintaining meaningful relationships throughout life
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Depression and The Importance of Relationships

From the moment we are born we are in need of other people and it remains that way the remainder of our lives.


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 “The Mental Health Foundation defines relationships as: “the way in which two or more people are connected, or the state of being connected’. Relationships include the intimate relationships we have with our partners, those we have with our parents, siblings, and grandparents, and those we form socially with our friends, work colleagues, teachers, healthcare professionals, and community.”

As Bessel Van Der Kolk in his brilliant book, The Body Keeps the Score, points out, “Our brains are built to help us function as members of a tribe…Therefore, most of our energy is devoted to connecting with others. He goes on to say, “almost all mental suffering involves trouble in creating workable and satisfying relationships.” Finally, he says “Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health. Safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”

The takeaway from these quotes is that we need to be in safe relationships to feel happy and be able to function at home and in society.

This is not a surprise considering the fact that we are born needing our mothers in order to survive. Mom feeds, cleans, comforts holds, warms and plays with us when we are infants. Dad gets into the picture very quickly because with baby bottles they can also feed not to mention all the other things mom does: dad holds, cuddles, tickles, plays with and comforts his infant.

One of the most critical developmental stages of development, in my opinion, is when the child first starts school, whether it is nursery school, pre-kindergarten or first grade. Learning to socialize with others including making friends, playing in the schoolyard and learning to work with one another on class projects.

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We begin learning social skills from the earliest ages:

 Psychological, Sociological and Observational studies have shown over and again that when children become rejected and isolated from their peers, they become depressed. Functioning well with others is a life-long need. However, there are at least two ways of looking at depression and socialization:


  • One of the clear symptoms of depression is social isolation and loneliness. People who feel depressed often do not have the energy or motivation to go out and socialize. There are even those who are so very depressed that they stay in bed all day. Of course, the lack of interaction or socialization with other people only worsens their condition. These are the kinds of people who have social networks and long-time relationships that they begin to ignore when depression sets in.
  • On the other hand, there are people who start out with depression and have never formed a social network, to begin with. Their social isolation is not a cause of their depression. Rather, they never learned the skills necessary to make and maintain long term friendships. It should be said that this discussion does not include those who suffer from one of the psychotic illnesses. That can be discussed at a later time.
  • One of the criticisms of modern society is that it alienates people. In other words, it’s become more difficult for many people to find ways they can be socially connected. It is thought that many social changes since the end of World War II have contributed to a growing sense of social alienation. Among these are that we have become a very mobile society so that people no longer grow up and remain in neighborhoods of origin with old friends. Added to that is that it became common for people to grow up and leave home for distant parts of the nation far from their extended families. The massive size of society causes some people to feel as though they are extremely unimportant. These are just a few of the reasons for feelings of alienation that very much contribute to feelings of depression.

Not everyone feels alienated or depressed. The most important factor for everyone is to find meaning in their lives. Some people find that through their work, family, children, religious affiliation and etc.

Help is available. Please contact Dr. Schwartz at [email protected]

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