Ayla is 21-years-old and is in her final year, studying Screenwriting and Film Studies. Ayla decided to get involved with Student Life to share her experiences in the hope that it will help and inspire others.
Nowadays, we would like to think that people were much more understanding of mental health issues than they were, say, ten years ago. This includes our circle of friends being in the know. While mental health can affect friendships, the people we associate ourselves with can also impact on our own mental health in positive and negative ways. This month, I would like to address how we can help a friend who might be struggling with their mental health.
Friendships play an important role in having good mental health. Connections are important and finding like-minded people contributes to our happiness and general well-being. However, mental health issues can be complex and some do not understand, or are not willing to. This is not uncommon in friendship circles, particularly large ones. Say there is an individual in the group who is suffering from anxiety. They might isolate themselves, choosing not to go to parties or replying to messages, for instance. Often, this individual is met with stigma from their friends. They will be accused of not bothering, or being boring. This can lead to deeper feelings of anxiety because the individual may give into peer pressure, forcing themselves into a situation they don’t want to be in.
However, this isn’t always the case. If we have true friends, they will support us with whatever problem comes our way. I think that’s the bottom line when it comes to friendships and mental health. Choose people who will support you through thick and thin.
As for supporting a friend who might be struggling with their mental health, do not think that you have to know all the answers. While you should help a friend to seek professional help, you can do small things. Doing things like coming with them to appointments (if they want you to); encouraging them to go out of their comfort zone (but not too much); being there as a shoulder to cry on; or just making them a cup of tea and having a catch-up is more than enough. Don’t be that friend who excludes someone for their mental health issues.