National Friendship day

August 6th is National Friendship day and I wanted to share with you the important role friendship can play on our mental health.

Recently a friend sent me an article titled: “To the friends who loved me unconditionally when I hit rock bottom”, and it made me consider the powerful and often unappreciated role friendships play in our lives.

“Thank you for all the times that you showed me warmth, the random hugs that you graced me with because you knew something was up even if I didn’t tell you anything”.

For me, this particular line really resonated, it shows the real importance of true friendships and the fact that sometimes they ‘just know’. Friends love you unconditionally, even at times when you don’t love yourself. They reassure us that life does get better, there is hope and they will always be by our side to remind us. I for one am truly grateful for my friend and was really touched when I was sent this article.

The article also made me think about how many people don’t feel able to talk to someone, the devastating effect this would have and what we can do to change it.

In the UK in 2015 there were 6,188 suicides. These statistics make suicide the leading cause of death in young people in the UK and also shows those over 45 are at greatest risk. With the rate of suicides at 6,188, that’s 6,188 more deaths than there should have been. Ultimately this shows us the need for support, alongside the need to challenge stigma around mental health and that starts with friends.

Let friend’s know its okay to talk…you’re there for them to listenwithout judgment.

Being open around mental health challenges stigma in a positive light and may be all a friend needs to be comfortable in asking for our help.

When someone is struggling with their mental health they may become distant, cancel plans and want to see us less than usual. However, this is when friendships play a key role and is exactly when maintaining friendships are so important.

The mental health foundation says: If you’re the friend of someone with a mental health problem, you may be concerned about them. The most important thing is to tell them that you’re still their friend. If your friend is comfortable with being touched, a hug shows that you care about them and that you accept them whatever problems they are having.

“My friend asked me questions, didn’t just assume things, she really wanted to know.”

Take cues from your friend. Are they comfortable with questions or would they rather talk about something else? Don’t promise things you may not be able to deliver. How can you help them best?

If you’re the friend, the most valuable support you can provide is just being there to talk and listen. People really appreciate that their friends have made time to contact them, visit them and invite them round.

These are five steps that research shows can help people with mental health problems:

■            Assess risk of suicide or self-harm

■            Listen non-judgmentally

■            Give reassurance and information

■            Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help

■            Encourage self-help strategies.

“Self-care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health”.

As Sunday 6th is August is national friendship day, why not combine the day with self-care Sunday. Take part in some self-care with your friend and let them know how much you value them and appreciate their friendship.

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