Big Issues

How Talking About Mental Health Can Strengthen Your Friendships

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As someone who is no stranger to dealing with mental health issues, I have found it can be really easy to isolate myself.

It wasn’t until recently, when I overcame my fear of opening up to my friends, that I was surprised to hear some of them were actually dealing with very similar issues to me.

In light of this experience, here’s how I’ve found communicating with friends about mental health can forge a space for honesty, trust, and mutual support.

To Remind You That You’re Not Alone

With 70 per cent of young students in Australia rating their mental health as poor or fair, it’s quite possible that the friends you open up to will have at least a brief understanding of what you’re going through.

Even if your friends don’t know everything, just letting it all out in an informal place will feel like such a relief.

Also, it may help them to understand some of your related behaviour or symptoms. You might need to bail on plans last minute, or avoid certain venues that make you feel stressed. The only way for your friends to understand this, and for you to not feel guilty about it, is to tell them.

To Promote At Least Trying Traditional Therapy

Sometimes, despite how comfortable it can be to lean on close friends about your mental health tribulations, it just won’t be enough support for what you’re going through. They might end up having to suggest you see a professional.

And really, this is a great outcome. From personal experience, I can confidently say that I would never have sought out psychological help without the push to do so from a trusted friend.

This next step is not your friend’s way of saying, “you’re a burden, leave me alone” but rather an act of love and care that means they’re looking out for your best interests.

There is never any guarantee that traditional therapy will make what you’re going through any easier. However, it is definitely worth at least trying a few times to see if it is something that could benefit you.

Because If There Are People You Can Talk To About Mental Health, It Should Be Your Friends

Being able to open up to your friends should be part of the deal. They’re perfect to vent to because they know you, understand the context of your life, and want what’s best for you.

Shame often stops people from coming forward and opening up to people that we trust — Headspace reported that 50 per cent of young Australians are too embarrassed to talk about their mental illness. We get scared that we’ll be treated differently, or seen as someone with too much baggage. But creating a judgment-free space for honest communication between friends will not only strengthen your ability to discuss serious topics fearlessly, but also re-enforce the concept that you never have to go through the difficult stuff alone.

No matter what you’re struggling with, hang in there, confide in a friend, and be the friend your friends want to confide in.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, you can find help by seeking advice from a counsellor or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.