A new survey by Mental Health America shows that while many Americans are routinely overwhelmed by stress, most view their relationships with family, friends and others as important sources of emotional support and stress relief, which can have positive effects on their mental and overall health. The survey is released at the outset of 2008 May is Mental Health Month, an observance Mental Health America founded 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental health for all. This year's theme, "Get Connected, is focused on the important role social connectedness plays in maintaining and protecting mental health and wellness. Research shows that social connectedness can reduce stress and promote overall health by providing a sense of belonging, self-worth and security.


"Individuals who feel valued and cared for are better equipped to deal with stress and adversity and even experience less severe illnesses than those with little social support, said David Shern, PhD, President and CEO of Mental Health America. "The results of this survey are overwhelmingly positive because they show that most Americans do, in fact, have supportive relationships and that they recognize the vital role these relationships play in protecting them from depression and other illnesses.


Of those surveyed, over one-third (40%) are concerned about their current stress levels and about one-third (34%) characterize themselves as "routinely overwhelmed by stress. This is especially true for African Americans (45%) and women (39%). Despite high stress levels, the vast majority (97%) of respondents have people in their lives they trust and can turn to when in need of support. Over one-third (43%) have as many as five people; over half (53%) have more than five; and only three percent of respondents report having none. Those with relationships turn most often to family members and significant others for emotional support during stressful times. Men (40%) are more likely to turn to significant others, while women (55%) are more likely to turn to family members.


Relationship Characteristics

The survey asked participants to respond to specific statements about their relationships. The majority:


·         Have close relationships that help them cope with stress (91%)

·         Feel a strong emotional tie with at least one other person (93%)

·         Have someone to talk to about decisions in their life (95%)

·         Say there are several people they can talk to when they feel lonely (93%)

·         Say there are people they know will help them if they really need it (96%)

·         Have people who appreciate them for who they are (96%)


Health Benefits of Relationships

The survey also asked participants to respond to statements about the effects of their relationships and found that most are aware of the benefits social relationships may have on mental and overall health. Nearly all respondents believe that having close relationships helps people relieve stress (94%) and helps protect them from developing depression and other mental health conditions (93%). Slightly less (86%) believe that not having close relationships can put them at risk for illness.


2008 May is Mental Health Month

This May, Mental Health America challenges each American to the Mental Health Connection Challenge to build his or her social support networks by making five positive and life-fulfilling connections. To help them meet this goal, Mental Health America and its nationwide network of affiliates are highlighting the many ways of creating connections that support mental health, including being engaged with family, friends and other members of an individual's social support network; one's community; and a health care professional, when needed. For more information on Mental Health Month, including tips for how to "Get Connected, please visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may.


2008 May is Mental Health materials are made possible through an educational grant from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. "Social Connectedness and Health was conducted by International Communications Research, an independent research company. Interviews were conducted via telephone from April 2-7 among a nationally representative sample of 1,016 respondents 18 years of age or older. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.07%. To access the executive summary, visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/surveys.


Mental Health America is the country's leading non-profit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, they represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation every day and in times of crisis.