Friendship and Mental Health

Friendships are an important part of life. Friends add enjoyment to our lives and provide comfort in times of need. But living with a mental health condition can make finding friends a little more difficult. Here are some ideas on what to do when you meet others.

How To Meet New People

Meeting new people can be nerve-wrecking, and a mental health condition can make you more insecure and less confident. 

Being in groups of people may be stressful, and symptoms of some mental health conditions can have physical symptoms that are sometimes difficult to control, or you simply may not feel like going out and being around others. 

While it may be difficult, putting yourself in situations to meet others can provide you with not only a group of people to hang out with but also a good support network if you need it. 

A good place to start is just by idenityfing what you enjoy. It doesn't matter whether it's sports, comics, theatre, movies or hiking, because other people will enjoy it as well. Consider joining an intramural sports team, art class, book club or volunteer. Most communities and neighborhoods have lots of activities to take advantage of. If you’re looking to meet people with a particular interest, see if there are Meetup groups near you.

You can also attend peer support groups to meet people who have experienced similar things and are in the same stage of life as you. This support can provide you with insights and tips for relationships of your own. Reach out to out your local NAMI Affiliate to learn more about support groups in your area.

Should You Tell Your Friends about Your Condition?

It’s ultimately up to you to decide to tell. Some people will benefit from telling many friends. Others may benefit by telling a couple of close friends and waiting to tell others. You are an expert on your own mental illness and can decide for yourself.

If you're stressed about whether to tell other people, you might feel better if you write down a list of pros and cons. Maybe some people won't understand. But maybe you can also see benefits to telling the people who will understand. If you're afraid, the list of pros can remind you of the rewards of overcoming your fear. Learn more about disclosing to others.

Maintaining Friendships

Some friendships happen naturally and some need a little more effort. It is helpful to take the initiative when it comes to maintaining your friendships. If you want to start a friendship, don’t wait for the other person to reach out to you. Post a message on Facebook, call them to share a story about something you have previously talked about or send a quick text message about something you both enjoy doing.

Remember that having good friends means being a good friend. Listen to your friends when they talk about what is going on in their life and offer advice the best you can. Keep their secrets and be a trustworthy confidant.

If you decide to tell your friend about your mental health condition, don’t be frustrated if they do not understand right away. Answer any questions they might have and remember that they are just trying to comprehend your experience. If they still are unable to handle it or pull away from you, be thankful for your time with them and consider it a learning experience.

Making friends isn’t always easy. Test the waters by acting slowly and don’t be discouraged if every person you meet doesn’t turn out to be a best friend. Every friendship, whether short or lifelong, teaches us something and helps to shape the person we become.