The importance of a support system has long been understood, with many of the relationships and experiences we undergo informing our outlook on life and the way we interact with the world. In times of great difficulty, these are the people we lean on, the individuals who get us through rough patches, and make us feel loved and cared for in the process. The effects of this support system are especially helpful for those with mental illness. In fact, studies have shown that the presence of proper support improves anxiety or management of illness. Meanwhile, the absence of those who provide support results in increased anxiety, which ties into other factors as well.
Conceptually, this makes sense. As stated above, support during a difficult time makes the experience more manageable, if not easier. In the context of mental health, the individual is aware that their support system understands what they are going through and are ready to lend support when needed or asked for. Just the knowledge that this is an option, that you have that possibility, can decrease stress related to mental health in certain aspects. Rather than focusing on how others might be affected by your situation and how difficult or burdensome you are, you can focus on the problem at hand, fully aware that you have the support of those who matter.
One excellent example of this was done in relation to academics, where parental support of children was examined in the context of there being a potential connection between various academic stressors and the presence of anxiety (Leung et al, 2009). Split into different focus groups, students were polled on the various types of support they received from their parents, ranging from information, such as aid given when doing homework, to emotional, with students being able to go to their parents at times of difficulty, to time spent together. They were asked questions related to 28 anxiety items from a list, in which higher scores from this list indicated higher levels of anxiety (Leung et al, 2009). When further analyzed, the various support variables had a negative correlation with student anxiety, and that maternal support was found in higher levels than paternal support was, keeping in line with previous findings on this topic.
However, the effectiveness of parental support in lessening the effects of academic stress and reducing the rate of academic anxiety is not just due to the reassurance of love and care. It is also tied to culture, and the idea of what your parents’ support means. In Hong Kong, filial piety is a large part of societal norms and the parent-child relationship is heavily influenced by Confucian ideology (Leung et al, 2009). For the students in the experiment to know that their academic achievements didn’t necessarily equate to how good of a child they were, or for the parents to understand that a child’s progress isn’t a reflection of how they were raised, that is a large weight off of their back in terms of societal expectations and the chains that bind them. With the time put into this relationship and their support made clear, anxiety due to academics decreased, allowing both students and parents to focus on what was truly important to them. The same thought process can be applied to other aspects of life, allowing individuals to prioritize what truly matters and do so with those they care about by their side.
Leung, G. S. M., Yeung, K. C., & Wong, D. F. K. (2009). Academic Stressors and Anxiety in Children: The Role of Paternal Support. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(1), 90–100. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-009-9288-4