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19. Social Support

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Lean On Me

Social Support



PowerPoint© Slide 1


Social Support



José, nicknamed Rambo, was extremely accomplished in martial arts. When he returned to his native Guam, he was recognized as a gifted linguist and chaired the teaching of the native Chamarro language in the public schools of the island. But crises and depression overwhelmed him. His wife left him, and later his granddaughter committed suicide. Something snapped, and José took up the life of a homeless man in a park at the beach. It was a rough place to live. One day, three other homeless men ganged up to attack José. Moments later all three lay unconscious. Word got around, “Leave José alone.” José staked out his own private pavilion and surrounded it with machetes stuck in the ground.


One November, Nelly Joy Roberts, a well-known radio announcer on JOY 92 FM, Christian Radio on Guam, with tears pleaded with her church community to do something for the homeless to celebrate Thanksgiving. “Will you help me?” she asked. The community of believers rallied to assist her. Why shouldn’t they? The name of their church in the native Chamorro language is Maraguiya, which is translated “Love that reaches out.”


The planned feast for the homeless at the beach was preceded by a sermon. Some homeless men watched from across the street, and José, clean-shaven and neat, was the only homeless person present. When the sermon was over, the homeless men who had been watching from across the street came for the delicious home-cooked Thanksgiving feast. Dr. Wes Youngberg, who also attended the church service, had been hoping to run a new depression recovery program in his clinic. Emotionally moved by the possibility of helping these homeless people, he announced that the program would begin the next week. José seemed interested in attending.


The day of the first Depression Recovery Seminar arrived. Dr. Wes was busy with patient appointments. Suddenly he remembered, Someone needs to go and get José and take him to the program. He called only one family. The husband was gone, but the wife, Mina, mother of three small children, agreed. Mina didn’t know (and nobody else at church knew) that José was a very violent man, was armed, and was seeing a psychiatrist at the time.


José had slept in that morning, and of course everybody around left him alone. Suddenly José was awakened because a young womanwho gave her name as Mina, and her little boy Zachary, were looking down at him. They again invited him to the meetings and furnished transportation. José enjoyed the sessions and did not miss a single one of the ten during a period of six weeks. By this time, the whole faith community was praying for José, and what an answer God gave to their prayers!


Every week, Dr. Youngberg presented WIN! Wellness strategies to the attendees on what they could do to conquer depression. The general idea was, “Follow your plan (not your feelings of the moment).” Assignments were given about getting out into the sunshine, reading the Bible, drinking sufficient pure water, eating the right food, and exercising every day. Each time José came to asession he would triumphantly announce, “I’m doing everything I learned last week.”


Out at the homeless park, the general fare was white rice andbarbecue ribs and beer. Of course, all these things only exacerbated depression. José started eating vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains. He triumphantly announced when he showed up at the sessionsthat he was reading the Bible, listening to classical music, and listening to educational material from the seminar leader on the DVD player that Dr. Wes had given him.


Nobody knew that José was armed. But as José listened to the DVD player that had been given him, he became angry. He listened to sermons on Christian World Radio in Japanese, English, and Filipino—but there was nothing, nothing in the native language of Guam called Chamorro. When he complained, Dr. Youngberg said, “José, that’s your job. You’re the expert.” They were just beginning to discover that José was the most accomplished Chamorro linguist anywhere. With time, José ended up with his own program in the Chamorro language on JOY 92 FM. And what joy this brought to the older citizens on Guam who had never mastered English or who just preferred to hear their native tongue. They were delighted, and so was he. José began to give Bible studies, prayed beautiful prayers, and called himself “Brother José.”


One and a half years went by. One day José confided to Dr. Wes, “Chellu [Brother], that first Tuesday I came to class was the day I had decided to end it all. Monday had been a very depressing day. When I went to sleep I had decided that in the morning I would take my own life. But when I woke up, here was this angelic-looking young lady Mina and her little son, looking down at me and calling my name. They saved me from suicide. If the wonderful people from Maraguiya[“Love that reaches out”] had not reached out to me, I would have joined my granddaughter in suicide.”


José was baptized as a member of Maraguiya and became an ordained deacon of that community of faith. God continued to use José in a mighty way. No longer did he leave his enemies out cold by his martial arts; now he warmed their hearts, introducing them to his own best friend, Jesus. Thousands were blessed as this accomplished linguist gave his testimony over the radio and television across the islands of the South Pacific.[1]


All this happened because of a social group who cared about the homeless. We must never underestimate the power of an idea. That idea may come from God!




PowerPoint© Slide 2

John Donne, English poet wrote—

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main[land]. . .Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”[1]



People need people. Everybody needs somebody. People were created for social relationship, and their health finds its fullest expression in positive social networking—serving unselfishly those who need help.


Social support and health



PowerPoint© Slide 4   Research

Seven physical habits predict longer life.

  1. eating breakfast
  2. sleeping adequately

3)exercising regularly

4)maintaining proper weight

5)never smoking cigarettes

6)using alcohol moderately or not at all

7)and not eating between meals.



The famous Alameda County (California) study (1972) found that seven physical habits were predictive of longer life:[2] But the surprise came when follow-ups on the same population reported in 1979. People who lacked friends and social support were roughly two to three times more at risk of premature death from all causes when compared with others who had friends and sensed social support.4


Isn’t that amazing! Twenty five years later scientists confidently reported[3] that social support is not onlyrelated to better health; good social support actually causes better health.This study supported the idea that lifestyle practices are more important than the initial health status in determining who lives and who dies.


Eight large-scale community studies in two Scandinavian countries and the US over a period of fifteenyears reported research on the relationship between social isolation and death and disease from all causes. In summary, it found: [4]


PowerPoint© Slide 3

Those who were socially isolated had at least two to five times the risk of premature death from all causes when compared to those who had a strong sense of connection and community.





PowerPoint© Slide 5

  • Quality of  Relationship More Important than Number of Relationships
  • Social Support = Less Coronary Artery Blockage




At Yale University, researchers studied 119 men and 40 women who were undergoing coronary angiography (an X-ray movie of blockages in the blood vessels of the heart). “The researchers found that feelings of being loved and emotionally supported were more important predictors of the severity of coronary artery blockages than were the number of relationships a person had.”[5]



PowerPoint© Slide 6

  • Men whose wives express love have about half the angina heart pains.
  • Wife’s love protects men from ulcers.



A Case Western Reserve University study of about ten thousand men asked the simple question, “Does your wife show you her love?” Those who responded “yes” had significantly less chest pain. Those who responded “no” had almost twice the angina. The researchers concluded, “The wife’s love and support is an important balancing factor which apparently reduces the risk of angina pectoris (of the chest) even in the presence of high risk factors.” Dr. Ornish summarizes that “although diet, blood pressure, and other risk factors play an important role in developing heart disease and angina, these forces can be significantly moderated by a loving relationship.[6]


A study of 8,500 men revealed that those men answering a survey question with the response, “My wife does not love me” had almost three times as many ulcers as the other men who reported that their wives showed them love and support.[7]



Social support and mental health


PowerPoint© Slide 7

Social Support and Depression

  • Social bonds impact mental health.




Individuals suffering fromdepression, stress, and lonelinessreport sleep-related immune changes. There is less rest and less restoration.[8]Poor mental health and substance use may lead to problems with social support and may intensify feelings of loneliness. Therefore it is important to reconnect such individuals with others in healthful, supportive ways as a part of successfully treating mental health or substance use problems.[9]


Connections or bonds to other people can have a positive impact on our mental health. Studies show  thatfactors which promote and protect young people’s mental well-being include strong parental relationships, a sense of belonging, good social skills, and supportive networks.[10] Well-connected communities with strong social networks are more likely to benefit from lower crime figures, better health, higher educational achievement, and better economic growth.[11]


We human beings seem to have a need to feel connected to someone, to a group or some worthy cause. When we do feel connected, we are not so lonely and are healthier and happier as well.


As we become acquainted with new people, we increase our circle of friends, who may need social support at some point or whom we may need in difficult times. Friends are important. How do I increase my circle of friends?



  • Be a friendly person who is easy to talk to. The Good Book says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”[12]
  • Be upbeat and cheerful. Cultivate optimism and a sense of humor.
  • Share encouraging words and be a good listener.
  • Make friends by joining an exercise group or a gym program, or start a walking group.
  • Take evening classes at a community or church-related college. Check out people who have similar hobbies or goals.
  • Choose to keep your friends and stay in touch. Look up old friends from school days. Answer legitimate emails. Reciprocate invitations.
  • Don’t overwhelm others with demands, and avoid being opinionated.
  • Choose good friends who are not involved in unhealthy behaviors like alcohol or substance abuse.
  • Count your blessings. Be a thankful person, and show your appreciation to others in different ways—giving a gift, spending time with them, helping them to do a difficult task.


Spiritual dimension of social support

We can’t fully develop in all dimensions if we live detached and isolated as hermits. We need social support groups for enrichment, well-being, and in order to move beyond ourselves and help others. This is a part of character development. To help others is a double blessing, assisting both the receiver and the giver.




PowerPoint© Slide 8

Helping a Needy Person on the Road


Story told by a Hospice physician from Denver, Colorado




Jeannie was caught in rush-hour traffic when her car began to sputter. She barely coasted in to a nearby gas station when she spied a crying woman coming out of the gas station. This woman had been able to put only $4.95 of gas into her vehicle, which was crammed with three kids. She hid behind the gas pump so the children wouldn’t see her cry. Jeannie asked, “Is everything all right?” The story came out that her boyfriend, who had fathered the children, had walked out, and she was driving to California to her parents’ house and had run out of money. The children were starved. Jeannie filled up the gas tank of the unfortunate woman, bought her four sacks of lunches at the fast-food place next door, and slipped off her gloves, giving them to the discouraged stranger for the cold weather ahead.


The stranded woman questioned, “What are you? An angel or something?” “No, sweetie,” Jeannie responded, “at Christmas time like this the angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people to help Him.” Jeannie slipped her some money and, with a wave, got into her car. The engine roared to life with no problem, and she went on her way rejoicing, knowing the young mama would have sufficient gas to get to her destination, and the children’s immediate food needs were supplied.[13]


When we keep our spiritual antenna out, God often puts us in the path of someone in need and says, “Go help him for Me.” We become an agent for the Heavenly Support Group. And who needs help from the Heavenly Support Group? The teen whose problems are bigger than he is; the mother who lost her baby before she came home from the hospital; the single father who has a hard time getting a nutritious meal for his two hungry children; the widower who can no longer drive his car to get groceries.


We cannot do all things for all people, but we can help people in times of need, one person at a time. God expects this of us. We should always keep our antenna out to see if we can give a hand of social support for special groups like single parents, youth, children, and the elderly.


The need of a true friend



PowerPoint© Slide 9

The Story of the Good Samaritan illustrates the Need of a True Friend


Luke 10:30-35 NLT

Jesus told the story




Jesus told the parable of a man attacked by bandits during a journey. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance, a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.


Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he cared for him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver and told him to take care of the man. “If his bill runs higher than that,” he said, “I’ll pay the difference the next time I come by.”


The King James Version says, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” He is an unidentified, faceless man. It could have been you or me. This poor traveler may be on his way home to his wife and children, who are awaiting his return. But the unthinkable happens. He is mugged and possibly knifed or attacked with stones in a particularly desolate and lonely stretch of road.


There are many wounded people in society. They have fallen on hard times. Sometimes it’s their own fault, but often someone has taken advantage of them. The priest and the temple assistant who pass by are negative supports. They contribute to his suffering and wounds by neglecting him. He is wounded and bleeding. The life is ebbing out of him.In loving, supportive acts such as those performed by the Good Samaritan, we have the whole concept of intentional love. It means getting personally involved in meeting the pressing needs of other people. The gospel is restoration.


In the original Greek, the words salvation and healing are the same word. The gospel is essentially the good news that healing and restoration of healthful support systems comes to all who need them. How many have been wounded on the road to Jericho? Millions have been struck by the stones of catastrophes or health concerns. Millions more have been knifed by emotional trauma, and they lie by the road wounded. Who will help them? Is it possible that God wants to use you to give a helping hand to others in need?


Mother Teresa said:



PowerPoint© Slide 10

Mother Teresa said: 

“The greatest disease is not TB or leprosy;  it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. . .”





We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world that are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.




PowerPoint© Slide 11

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2


Youth Response to Hurricane Katrina Victims




There are many today who suffer from the devastation of natural disasters, and as more difficult times come on the earth, more will need our help. When we “reach out and touch someone,” it will be a blessing to both the giver and the receiver. Many college and high school students’ lives have been changed in a positive way when they have given of their time and money to help others in need after a destructive catastrophic event. They return home after hard work, sleepless nights, and uncomfortable situations and feel blessed.


If you are the lonely one, you will probably find that as you reach out to others, you will naturally make connections and make friends. Through giving, you receive the social connections that you desire. One womanwho had serious prayer needs asked for prayer support, which she received along with an invitation to join the prayer group in praying for others. Through praying for the needs of others, she began to have an inner peace about her own problems and felt closer to God.


Each of us can make a difference! We can reach out to the Josés who are homeless and in despair. We can be like Nelly Joy and Mina, who took time out of their busy day to lend a hand and four wheels to a man who was wondering if anyone cared. Our social group can be like the Maraguiya “Love that reaches out” faith community. There will be eternal rewards.




PowerPoint© Slide        Prayer

Lord, thank You that You reached out to our world when it went wrong. Thank You that people still care. Make me like the Good Samaritan. Help me to want to stop on the journey of life and give a helping hand to the wounded and helpless. Amen.







PowerPoint© Slide 12Reflect/Discuss

1.   Recall a unique time when you received help or gave help. Who received the blessing?

2.   Why or how is it that doing good to others can make you healthier and less depressed?






PowerPoint© Slide 13Reflect/Discuss

3.   Think of times God blessed you or a family member and intervened in a personal crisis time.  How do you know the help was from God?  Does God use men, women, and children to help us in answer to someone’s prayers?




Personal Reflections


PowerPoint© Slide 14

Personal Reflections


1.   What social support have you received from others who cared?

2.         A way to prepare for future crises is to make friends. Reflect on how many good friends you have and why you need their friendship. If you don’t have many friends, what might you do to enlarge your circle of meaningful friends?




PowerPoint© Slide 14

Personal Reflections

3.   If you have just recently helped out in a social support group, what blessings did you receive?

4.   Who in your neighborhood or faith community needs your help? What can you do for them?

5.   Is God impressing you to help someone in need?





r   My desire is to help someone or a group of people this week. Who should it be? ______________________.

r   I plan to volunteer my service locally in my community or in a developing country or __________________.

r   I would like to volunteer my services to some mission group outside of my country where I am needed.


Remember: “As you did it onto one of the least of these.. ., you did it unto Me.”[14]

  • Help in a soup kitchen for those who need to be fed.
  • Give to the homeless: food, sleeping bags, warm coats and gloves, a duffel bag, shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
  • Go on a mission trip and help in a building project.
  • Adopt a family or a grandpa/grandma to help and invite for Christmas.
  • Be a volunteer where you are needed.
  • Volunteer in an orphanage.
  • Provide suitcases for foster-care children to keep their belongings.
  • Open your home for a prayer support group for neighbors and friends.
  • Become a support person to cancer patients taking chemotherapy.
  • Join a medical team to help the poor in a developing country.
  • Take teens and college students on a disaster relief mission.
  • Start a support group for special needs groups in the community.
  • Relieve caregivers who need a break.
  • Volunteer to listen to children read in school.
  • Provide food in time of sickness, death, or crisis in neighborhoods.
  • Pray for, encourage, and materially support those who have lost a job.
  • Start a Wellness Health Club to help others to have an integrated balanced life.
  • Open your home to be a Home of Hope and Health and help others to make lifestyle changes.
  • Call senior citizens for chats, prayer, and to help solve problems.
  • Send care packages or letters to servicemen and women.
  • Ask teens to help senior citizens use the computer/Internet.
  • Be a true friend to someone in need of social support.
  • Join a church community that reaches out to others in need and takes part in support groups for the poor and needy, the grieving, those requiring financial assistance and divorce recovery.


PowerPoint© Slide 15


The End




[1]. Personal experience as told by Dr. Wes Youngberg, coauthor of WIN! Wellness.

[2]. N. B. Belloc, and L. Breslow, “Relationship of Physical Health Status and Health Practices, “ Preventive Medicine 1 (1972): 409–421; Lester Breslow and James E. Enstrom, “Persistence of Health Habits and Their Relationship to Mortality,” Preventive Medicine 9, no. 4 (July 1980): 469–483. doi:10.1016/0091-7435(80)90042-0.

[3] L.C. Hawkley, J.T. Cacioppo, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, “Stress and the aging immune system,” 18 (2004), 116. A physiological pathway for increased social support to better health is: increased social support buffers emotional stress increasing immune function.  Loneliness and decreased social support increase emotional stress decreasing immune function.

[4]. Ornish, Love & Survival, (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), 42.

[5]. Ibid., 41, 42.

[6]. Ibid., 25, 26.

[7]. Ibid., 26.

[8]. L.C. Hawkley, J.T. Cacioppo, loc. cit., 118.

[9]. Ornish, Love & Survival, loc. cit., 26.

[10]. Mental Health in New Zealand From a Public Health Perspective, New Zealand Ministry of Health, 1977,  31.

[11]. M. K. Smith, “Social capital,” The Encyclopedia of Informal Education, last updated 2009,

[12]. Proverbs 18:24.

[13]. “Are You like an Angel or Something?” Amazing Angel Stories (blog), accessed March 22, 2012,

[14]. Matthew 25:40.


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