I recently heard from a friend from the University of Ottawa. We spent hours together every day during our undergrad but drifted apart as I moved to India and she moved to Saskatchewan. We’ve reconnected multiple times and then lost touch again. I don’t make friends easily, and I tend to make friends for life. Unsurprisingly, this means that this friend from university regularly comes to mind even though I haven’t heard from her for years. I’ve forgotten hundreds of acquaintances since, but she lingers.
Mental Health Impacts Close Relationships
In our close relationships, we’re often looking to be understood, to connect, and to know that we can count on someone. That can be very difficult for someone with mental health challenges. When thinking about the people in your life, remember that people often suffer silently. Have empathy and consider that other people around you may be struggling even if they haven’t shared that information with you.
There are many different mental health struggles that make it hard to maintain relationships.
- Depression can make it difficult to socialize and meet with others, including friends and family.
- Social anxiety makes it hard to be in social settings and can create fear that makes it impossible to leave home.
- People with an eating disorder may struggle with relationships due to the challenge of expressing themselves and how they feel.
Support Each Other
While many mental health challenges require professional help, each of us can look for ways to be there for the people in our lives. Here are 5 possible actions:
- Spend time with people you care about, being present and without distraction.
- Let the people in your life know that you care about them.
- Reach out to people you care about who you may not have heard from in a while. Find out how they are.
- If someone close to you is struggling, find small acts of kindness you can do for them.
- Look out for people who are isolated and who need help.
Note that if someone in your life is hurting you mentally or physically, you may need to distance yourself from them. This can be difficult, especially if the person hurting you is a dependant or someone you feel responsible for. Get help from a trained professional to protect yourself and your mental health as well.
World Mental Health Day
A few months ago, I heard from my friend from university once more. She pops up every few years or so, and I’m always happy to hear from her. Maybe our friendship is more memory than anything else at this point in time, but I still treasure it. This post reminds me that it’s my turn to respond, and I’ll do that today.
A common adage is that relationships are for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. Maybe that’s true, but relationships are created by the people in them. Each person gets to decide how to act in a relationship. However, remember that mental health struggles can highjack your behavior or that of your friend or family member.
Tune in to season 4 of Changes Big and Small on Relationships starting Wednesday 13th October.
For more information on relationships and mental health, visit https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/relationships.