Why healthy friendships are important for mental health? A Psychiatrist explains

Trust and loyalty between friends develops when both are able to support and comfort each other. Both trust and loyalty are necessary for a friendship to be healthy and beneficial.

How does a healthy friendship impact our mental health?
Friends keep us from feeling lonely and increase our sense of belonging.
Good friends act as stressbusters. We feel lighter and happier after spending time with friends. Whether we need advice or just some distraction, friends are the best bet.
A healthy friendship can boost our self-confidence and motivate us. We are more likely to stick to our goals if we have friends to share these. Learning a new craft, exercising to lose weight or studying for exams, everything becomes easier and more fun with friends.
A friend can be the right person to guide and advise us, especially in those situations when we need to hear the bitter truth.
Friends can help us in coping with life’s challenges like break-ups, bereavement or the loss of a job.
Friends with healthy lifestyles motivate us to adopt the same healthy habits.

How can one be a good friend to someone with mental health issues?
Learn about what your friend is going through.
Do not be judgmental. Rather be open and willing to listen.
Ask your friend what you can do to help them.
Accept that your friend hasn’t chosen to be like this. So there is no point in telling them to “forget about it” or “think only positive thoughts”.
Help them find support and professional help.
Congratulate and appreciate your friend for signs of progress.
Offer to help with day to day tasks, which might seem daunting for people with mental health issues

What behavioural changes tell you that your friend is going through a difficult time and needs mental support?
Appears to be tearful or irritable most of the time
Misses school or college frequently, and avoids social engagements
Changes in sleep pattern
Changes in appetite
Changes in alcohol and drug habits
Talks of feeling hopeless about the future
Talks of not wanting to live anymore

Do not ignore your own mental health while supporting a friend. Set clear boundaries and involve other people as well to support your friend so that you can take a break intermittently. Recognise that supporting your friend does not mean you have to solve all their problems. A person with mental health problems is likely to need professional help. So do not berate yourself when you see your efforts not bringing the desired results. Above all, keep an eye on your own mood, so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
While healthy friendships act as a huge buffer against stress and the challenges we face in life, there also are friends who exert a bad influence on us. It might be difficult at times to acknowledge that a friendship is toxic and needs to be terminated. The best way to decide is, to be honest about how we feel when we are with that person. Some friends leave us feeling negative about ourselves. Some make us keep saying sorry for something or the other all the time. A friend who brings out the best in us is indeed life’s biggest blessing.


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