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Good Friendships Improve Your Mental Health

Written by Bailey Huckaby

I will never forget the moment my best friend Cassie looked at me and said, “You are depressed, and I’m tired of us not talking about it.”

I was shocked. I had spent the last several months trying to portray the positive, upbeat person that most of my friends knew me to be. I was determined to keep up the façade that everything was great, I was happy, I was okay. For the most part, it was working. No one could tell how empty I was feeling inside. I pretended that my influx of drinking and partying was just a side effect of having so many friends. Everyone around me thought I was having a great time! Everyone except for Cassie, who somehow had the ability to read me like a book.

Depression is a funny thing in how it changes your perception of not only yourself, but also the people around you. Depression convinces you that your problems are only your own to carry, and that no one else should be involved; you shouldn’t bother them. You feel burdened by shame. Suddenly you find yourself distant. Your best friends become mere acquaintances, because you can’t bear the thought of spending time with them and letting it slip that you feel like you are drowning in the sadness. The irony in this, though, is that sometimes the support of your friends is exactly what you need to pull yourself out of the depths.

Positive friendships have a whole host of benefits for physical as well as mental health. This includes increased feelings of purpose and belonging, happiness, self-worth, and confidence. Friendship also lowers levels of stress. One study revealed that when discussing difficult parts of their lives, participants had a lower pulse and blood pressure when they had a supportive friend accompanying them. There is no shame in having friends who support and uplift you. Depression will tell you otherwise, but depression is a really good liar.

Cassie could see me and see through the mask that I had been wearing daily for months. She called out my depression and confronted it head on. She dragged my pain into the light and forced me to confront it, as well. While this experience was painful, it was exactly what I needed. I felt supported, loved, and cared for. It wasn’t a matter of how I was going to solve this, it was a matter of how we were going to solve it. Having the support of someone who was willing to hold my hand, both literally and figuratively, throughout the process of healing made all the difference. I didn’t feel alone anymore.

The beautiful thing about real friends like Cassie, is that they don’t care if you’re not okay all the time. They love you regardless. They love you even when you are messy, undone, and imperfect. Good friends are supportive, loving, and empathetic. Find that friend, but also be that friend to others. Sometimes we convince ourselves that isolation is the only way to solve our problems, but even science tells us that we need human connection. We all need a Cassie.

Bailey Huckaby is enrolled in Columbia University’s Masters of Social Work program and has previously served as Administrative Assistant at Insight Counseling Centers.

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed during the month of May since 1949. This year, our focus is exploring tools that can help us survive and thrive, no matter our circumstances. Adapting well during challenges and adversity is known as resilience.
One tool for resilience that keeps coming up in our search is the practice of gratitude. Gratitude is the acknowledgement of what we possess that we can rely on – this includes resources that are external, like friends and family, or internal, like our own character strengths. Practicing gratitude can get us unstuck when we’re in a mindset of scarcity and empower us to keep going.
We’ve curated resources to help you improve your mental health this month through the practice of gratitude. As always, we’re here for you. Contact us to connect with a counselor who can help you through your unique experiences.

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