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Why is friendship important when someone is unwell?

This article was originally published by Mental Health Foundation

Why is friendship important when someone is unwell?

When someone has a mental health problem or is experiencing mental distress, it is important to try to keep friendships going, even though people with mental health problems often want to see their friends less than usual.

Friendship can play a key role in helping someone live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it. It’s natural to worry when a friend is troubled and most of us don’t want to give up on a friend in distress, however difficult it may be to support them. Many people who do manage to keep their friendship going feel that it’s stronger as a result.

Friendships work both ways. A mental health problem doesn’t mean that you’re never able to support or laugh with someone else.

“My friend helped me to get a grip on myself by making it clear it wasn’t acceptable or safe for me to allow my condition to dominate my life.”

How does mental ill health affect friendships?

  • People with more severe forms of mental illness have smaller social networks than others and have more family members than friends in their social circle.
  • People with smaller social networks, with fewer intimate relationships, find it more difficult to manage social situations.
  • People with more long-lasting mental health problems often have relationships mainly with other people with mental health problems.
  • People with mental health problems often anticipate rejection from other people because of the stigma associated with mental health. They may avoid social contact, as a form of ‘self-stigma’.

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