Friendships are often an underestimated factor contributing to our mental health and overall well-being. In many cases, our friends understand us just as well as our family members, offering advice and perspectives we may otherwise not consider. They provide support and share our joy and can act as a foundation in coping with symptoms associated with mental illnesses. Most importantly, friends can prevent loneliness, as many individuals with a mental illness might be reluctant to share their illness with friends after receiving a formal diagnosis.
The irony is that mental illnesses can often cause us to withdraw from friends and family members during times in which we need them the most. Like anything that’s worthwhile and rewarding, friendships require time and attention. Healthy friendships can also help you to:
- Avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices such as drinking and smoking
- Cope with trauma and loss
- Boost your self-confidence and self-worth
- Increase your sense of belonging
- Reduce stress and likelihood of developing depression
People experiencing difficulties with their mental health will also fear rejection from potentially new friends due to the negative stigmas associated with psychiatric disorders. As a result, they also won’t tell new friends about their mental illness; at least not at first. For those that recognize the importance of pursuing new friendships, connections can be formed in several settings such as joining a local church or club, spending time with co-workers, volunteering time at a charitable group or organization, or taking up a new hobby.
For someone that has recently completed treatment, peer support groups are an excellent aftercare option that will allow you to form new friendships. Some of the most popular support groups for individuals with mental illnesses include the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Dual Recovery Anonymous, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the Yellow Ribbon suicide prevention program. Both SAMHSA and your local NAMI chapter will be able to provide you with information about the support groups most local to you. These support groups will connect you with people to lean on who have been through many of the same things you’ve been through.
If you have a friend that is in desperate need of professional and accredited mental health treatment, please call the Pasadena Villa admissions office at 407-574-5190 or fill out our contact form. We currently offer treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Raleigh, North Carolina. Our trademarked Social Integration Model strives to teach our clients the independence and social skills needed to live a healthy and productive life after leaving Pasadena Villa. Levels of care offered include intensive residential treatment, community-based residential treatment, day treatment and transitional living.