Establishing a close network of friends or support is essential for recovery because we can call them when we need help. Help could mean calling someone to chat or receiving transportation to the hospital. Sharing a mental health diagnosis can alienate close friends or present obstacles to establishing new ones. Meeting new people comes with its own nuances and adding a mental health diagnosis to the experience does not boost confidence.
Mingling in large or small groups can be stressful, and some diagnoses come with noticeable symptoms that are hard to control or simply kill your desire to be seen by others. However, meeting new people can help establish or enhance your support circle.
The obstacles to meeting new people vary, but your comfort level will determine your success. Start by finding activities that interest you. It doesn't need to be a traditional activity either. If you want to explore more about your diagnosis or mental health, attend seminars, open houses, and peer support groups. The general idea is to find an environment with people who share the same interest. Consider volunteering, joining an instruction-style class, or join a club. You can also explore sites and apps like Meet Up.
Deciding to tell your friends about your mental health diagnosis can cause anxiety, and it's healthy to remember everyone is not owed access to something so personal about your life. Telling those closest to you could be beneficial when you need support. If deciding to disclose is causing too much stress, consider making a list of people you view as supportive and a list of people you see as judgmental or not as favorable. Focus on the list of supportive individuals and think about how they have reacted to life events in the past. You may want to hold back from sharing initially and share your diagnosis when rapport has been built.
Making friends and maintaining relationships can be difficult. If you decide to share your diagnosis, be open to the fact they may not understand at first. Be open to answering questions and be prepared if they decide they are unable or unwilling to comprehend your experience. Consider all of the time spent as a learning experience and avoid being discouraged. Most friendships develop naturally and repair themselves after minor disagreements.
Friendships require effort from all parties and it is okay to initiate contact through any
available medium when you are thinking of your friend. Especially if you haven't heard from them in a while. Message them on social media or text a gif about something you both enjoy. Although you may need additional support at times, be sure to listen to things happening in your friends' lives, keep their secrets, and give advice the best you can (if asked).
Whichever steps you decide to take with establishing and managing friendships, remember all parties should be responsible for their behavior. Each party should hold themselves accountable for their responses and reactions.
A mental health diagnosis may make communication more difficult, but it’s not impossible! Recovery is possible!
“Check-in” on your mental health and monitor the severity of your symptoms with our screening tools (provided by Mental Health America).