Helping others belong benefits all

Our need to belong is a basic human need, exceeded only by our need for food and shelter. I used to scoff at this notion—not about food or shelter, but about belonging. I didn’t think it was very important.

When I was in my twenties, my third basic need was to be an independent, self-assured and confident individual. To belong to anything, I thought, required me to relinquish my uniqueness. I wanted no part of that. So, I marched on confidently with my independent, individualistic acquaintances. I could hardly call them friends, as we were each competitive, motivated primarily by self-interest.

Time passed, and I experienced a few year-long episodes of clinical depression. Those terrible interruptions in my life brought me down off my pedestal. Gradually, I realized that my disdain for groups was no longer because I wanted to be that independent self-assured individual. Rather, my aversion was now based on fear. I was afraid that if I allowed myself to try to join any group, the people in it would see what a rotten person I was, and my massive feelings of shame would shine through. I couldn’t allow myself that humiliation. In recognizing these deep fears, I also realized I was extremely lonely.

This is a very common experience, and way of thinking, for many people who live with a mental illness. Many of us get stuck in that place of loneliness, longing for some sense of belonging: belonging to one other person, to our families, to a collection of like-minded and like-hearted people.

How can one get unstuck? It takes a lot of courage to change, here specifically to let go of the assumption of being unworthy, to step into the unknown, to risk rejection. There is no guarantee that we will be embraced by those we wish to truly connect with. But the alternative is continued isolation and loneliness. This is often enough to pry some folks from their stuckness. But not everyone.

But the responsibility for including any specific person, especially one who is different, in a group does not reside only with the person who wants to belong. It is the responsibility of each member of a group, be it a family, social organization, volunteer team, etc., to assess whether they have a stigma related to that different person, whether she has a mental illness, he is indigenous, or she is a woman of colour. Then each member harbouring that stigma must address that attitude and change it if they care at all for the happiness and well being of that person.

Are we prepared to make this change so that more “different” people can feel they belong in our families, our groups, our communities?

-Nan Dickie is the facilitator of a peer-led depression support group in Salmon Arm. Meetings are held the first and third Mondays at Askew’s Uptown community room at noon. Everyone, including supporters, welcome. Info:; 250 832-3733.

Just Posted

Video: Natalie Wilkie wins gold in Women’s 7.5km ski race as hometown cheers her on

Salmon Arm skier takes home her second medal of the PyeongChang Paralympics

Making new furry friends at the Meet the Breeds event in Salmon Arm

Centenoka Park Mall hosts Vernon & District Kennel Club’s showcase of well-trained pups

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Choose a brand for Salmon Arm

What do you think of three options offered to attract people to visit, live and invest in city.

Seniors prefer funeral to lifestyle planning

Survey finds 73% of seniors have a will, only 13% have long-term care plan

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

Canucks snap scoreless streak but fall short in 5-3 loss to Sharks

Swiss forward Timo Meier nets two, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Federal government seeks public feedback on pedestrian safety

What safety measures do you think need to improved for pedestrians and cyclists?

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Canadian research vessel to explore 19th Century shipwrecks

Commissioned this week in Victoria, the RV David Thompson is Parks Canada’s newest vessel

UPDATED: ‘New wave’ of anti-pipeline protests return to Trans Mountain facility

About 100 demonstrators with Protect the Inlet marched to the Burnaby terminal Saturday

Most Read