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F is for Friendship

Author: null null Published: 16th September 2012 22:22

 "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." Dale Carnegie

I was listening to a discussion the other day about friendship. One person said they'd love to be able to work with friends, and someone else commented that working with friends was a sure way to lose that friendship. This led to other comments from the group about what we mean by ‘friend' - there are friends where we have a close personal relationship, and there are people we may feel friendly towards and like working with for example who are part of our wider social network.

And having both kinds of friendship in our lives is important to good mental health. Most of us have just a few really close friends, perhaps we've known them for a long time, or we have a special affinity. Such relationships involve affection, loyalty, respect and honesty, and the fact that friends choose each other, unlike families, makes those relationships all the more meaningful.

However, having a wider social network of people we're friendly with is equally important. This social network may be work colleagues, neighbours, people who share interests, parents in the school playground, and this will vary over time. Friendships may form but don't necessarily continue. This kind of social interaction gives us our sense of status and belonging. To be isolated from human contact is one of the worst forms of punishment and can seriously threaten our mental health.

Someone with a healthy level of self confidence and self esteem is likely to have good social skills, be interested in meeting new people and have a wide circle of acquaintances.

On the other hand when someone is experiencing mental ill-health such as depression and anxiety, they are more likely to stop seeing people and withdraw from both close friends and their social network. The attitudes of others, whether because of stigma or just because they don't want to intrude, means this isolation can increase and make recovery more difficult.

"So when you're cold
From the inside out
And don't know what to do,
Remember love and friendship,
And warmth will come to you."

- Stephen Cosgrove Gnome from Nome

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