Building a strong social support system is essential nowadays as people are overwhelmed with stress at work and while studying. Often we find ourselves in difficult situations or we have problems that seem insurmountable if faced alone.
Having a support system at these times will relieve us considerably as we interact with others and have ‘someone to lean on’ in times of trouble. In light of this, UCSI Student Development and Counselling Department (SDCD) held a workshop titled ‘Connected: Building A Supportive Circle’ on 31 January 2020 open to all students.
A total of 140 students attended this workshop from various faculties in UCSI. There were a number of students at the event to help facilitate the discussion session and the workshop on the whole.
One of the facilitators of the workshop Shelna Machfudz, a Mass Communication student, remarked that the topic was indeed interesting and youngsters need to know the meaning pf social support and why it is needed.
“In relation to Mass Communication, this workshop highlights that communication is important and can be challenging and fun with new people. One of the benefits of this workshop is that we will have the knowledge to help people especially those with mental illnesses, “she said.
Another Mass Communication student, Aya Ahmed from Sudan, commented that social support is necessary to help handle study pressure and through this you can be more open, having friends to talk to.
The speaker of the workshop was Ammar Saifullah, one of the counsellors from SDCD, who was at hand to talk about how important it is to have friends and family to turn to in times of crisis. This also includes online virtual interactions.
Ammar emphasised that human beings are essentially social species and having social support creates a sense of belonging and a sense of being appreciated. He highlighted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where the final stage is to find meaning in life or self-actualisation.
As part of the workshop, Ammar introduced the game ‘Finding Nemo’ where students were asked to form groups of five and then were asked to find those who had similar interests such as favourite food, colour of clothing and hobbies. This activity illustrated that people will naturally form a group based on similarities to communicate with each other.
Next there was a discussion on the light and dark sides of social support. In their groups, students came up with several points on the advantages and disadvantages of social support.
Some of the responses were that social support provides motivation emotionally and physically, enhances self-esteem and confidence, reduces stress levels and improves connectivity. It also enables a person to have more friends, having more chances to achieve one’s targets, improves mental health, enables one to get out of their comfort zone, prevents negative thoughts and widens networks.
On the other hand, the dark side includes having trust issues, the tendency to be judgmental, unreliability, becoming too dependent on others, being a burden to others, bad influences, discrimination, cyber bullying, toxic relationships and peer pressure.
Ammar ended with a few simple ways to build a support system such as ‘start now and start small’ by greeting each other, smiling and waving; engaging in small talk such as the weather and having a conversation which include open-ended questions.
Lastly, he said that for those who those who are wanting to seek help for issues that cannot be shared with family or friends, UCSI offers free counselling for students.
For Jageshwaran Ravindran, an Engineering student, he would definitely attend this type of workshop again and what stood out for him was the pros and cons of social support and in turn, how to overcome the disadvantages.
Mak Wen Shean from the Faculty of Applies Sciences commented that the workshop was useful in that people will be more aware of the advantages and disadvantages of social support.
“It was also good to know how to get to know someone new and have an open-ended conversation with them. Support can come from family, friends and colleagues and it was useful to learn the 5Ws and 1H in having a conversation,” she said.
Overall, the event was beneficial to students as they learnt how essential having support system is and how to go about getting one bearing in mind the ‘dark’ side and being aware and cautious while building a support system for themselves.