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Mental Health Awareness Week: Relationships With Friends

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 16th to 22nd of May. The Mental Health Foundation chooses a focus theme for Mental Health Awareness Week every year – this time the focus is on relationships. Apart from family relationships and romantic relationships, one of the most important bonds you can have is with your friends.

Having friends that we enjoy spending time with and feel we can confide in and trust contributes hugely to our overall mental wellbeing. Humans are social creatures; feelings of isolation and loneliness are big factors that can lead to people developing mental health problems.

Finding time for friendships

In today’s fast-paced and technology driven world, people often struggle to find time to see their friends. Relationships with friends can be side-lined by other commitments such as work and romantic relationships. Social media can also contribute to friends seeing less of one another, as they substitute real-life meetings and conversations with instant messaging or quickly viewing a friend’s profile instead. But spending time with friends is hugely important for mental wellbeing.

The Mental Health Foundation puts talking about feelings, keeping in touch, caring for others and asking for help in the top 10 ways to look after mental health. Spending time with friends will ensure that all of these needs are met, as you confide in and support each other. Making new friends is equally important to preserving relationships with old ones.

Friendships and mental illness

If someone is suffering with a mental illness, spending time with friends may be more difficult for them. Feelings of depression or anxiety can make normal social events seem intimidating, daunting or exhausting. Friends often mistakenly think that the person with the condition doesn’t want to see them. The stigma around mental health can mean that some people don’t understand what their friend is going through, or how to respond.

People with mental health problems often lose friends while they struggle with their condition. It is important to try to maintain friendships with people who are experiencing mental health issues, as your support and understanding could help them to overcome the condition. The mental health problem doesn’t define a person – just because they have a mental illness it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun together.

Prioritising relationships with friends

During Mental Health Awareness Week, The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to make a “relationship resolution”. Putting in the effort to see your friends more often will have a beneficial impact on your long-term mental wellbeing, and ensure that your friends are healthy mentally too. You might resolve to meet up with an old friend more often, or to invest more in being present and listening to friends instead of using social media to keep in touch. Whatever relationship resolution you make, fill in the online form to receive reminders from the Mental Health Foundation, or share your #RelationshipResolution on Twitter.

Ieso Digital Health offers a free online talking therapy on behalf of the NHS. It is accessible, discreet and confidential. If you are suffering from anxiety and depression, visit our website to see if you have a local provider.

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