Who Should Be In Your Social Safety Net?

What is a Social Safety Net

 A Social Safety Net is an excellent means to chart out the relationships you are currently involved in, rating them from most intimate in the center to working or less intimate in the outer rim or circle.  By placing people in the varied concentric circles you are establishing how the relationships effect you personally, their radius to you intimately and who you can turn to in time of a crisis.  The inner circles are the most personal of relationships, like close family and friends. These are the people you interact with on a daily basis and can readily approach about your issues.  You should feel the most secure and uninhibited around the people who make up your inner circles.  They are the people who will most likely be inextricably involved in your care and mental health while you are not in hospital.  They are also the people who will be the first ones to respond if you should suffer an emotional crisis.

The middle circles are less intimate with more health professionals and mental health programs.  They are not necessarily friends, but you share personal information with them about your illness.  It is good to chart the different programs you are in and the many professionals you may see by their importance to your mental health at any given stage. This way you are sure who they are and how important they are to you on a daily basis or in a crisis.  These people are the first health care professionals to deal with you in a time of difficulty; they evaluate your mental health and try to direct you down a more stabilizing path while steering you away from any crisis you may confront.

The second last circle should consist of the different crisis health care professionals you may have to interact with in the event of an emotional crisis.  They are on the outer rim of the chart because you do not interact with these health care professionals on a daily basis and they are only there during crisis periods in your life.

After charting out your significant relationships, both intimate and working, you should feel like you are surrounded by a whole community of support; like a network of people spanning out around you.  That is what the chart is for; to help you construct a working map or chart of the relationships in your life.  Keep it stuck on your fridge to remind you during the bad times of all those people who surround you like an intricate net made of diverse relationships. If you have questionable friendships or family relationships, than don’t even put them in a circle. You can put them on your chart in the satellite circle (Grey) floating around without any real influence in your immediate life.  Or, decide to leave these negative influences off the paper all together.  Actually, by assessing all the relationships in your life in this way you will be able to filter out the bad or negative from the healthy positive ones.  You can clean house in a way.

Why Should You Create A Social Safety Net Chart?

While it may seem rather callous to categorize your personal and working relationships into good or bad you don’t really chart them in that manner.  The Social Safety Net is meant to give you an idea about whom you know and whom you can count on in case of a crisis or a day-to-day dilemma.  The relationships are not categorized as good or bad; instead they are judged on their merit in relation to your mental health and it’s stability. You may find in the end that it will be your healthy relationships that take-up the center of your chart and the unhealthy ones that float around the satellite rim (the gray circle).

When you look at your finished chart, during a time of crisis, you will be able to see that you are not alone, but surrounded by important contacts that you can utilize in time of need.  You will be able to discern whether a relationship is a healthy influence on you or not, especially when you are emotionally weak and unable to defend yourself in an appropriate manner.  Relationships that fall into the satellite circle should not be considered trustworthy or stable enough to count on in times of need.  Be as honest as you can about where you place your relationships and try to put all of them in the chart. Believe it or not, it is comforting to know just how many people are involved in your life and mental health care.

*It is important not only to know the people around you who can care for you, but you must also be able to contact them in a short amount of time if you are in distress.  This is why you should keep phone numbers readily available on the fridge or a bulletin board so that you or a family member can access them easily.

You should attempt to put into your chart most, if not all, of the relationships in your life that effect you on a regular basis and all of your mental health care providers.  If you have relationships that have dwindled and faded out, but you still have erratic contact, don’t bother to put them in the chart.

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