Talking Mental Health: Keeping friendships healthy

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There is an old Chinese proverb that says “at home one relies on parents; away from home one relies on friends.” For many of us, friendships are among the most valued aspects of our lives.

Friends are an important source for fun, emotional support and companionship. This is especially true for university students, whose primary social relationships are often their friends. The years you spend in university are also a time of many transitions, and your friendships may often change.

You will experience the challenge of maintaining long-distance relationships and might even outgrow some of your old friends. You will probably also strive to make new friends, and some people may struggle with that.

There are lots of ways to meet new friends in university; talk to your neighbours in class, join clubs or find a volunteer opportunity. You will also meet lots of people in residence, if you go out for sports or at your part-time job.

Also remember that not everyone you meet is going to become your best friend. People often expect their roommates to become their friends, but this doesn’t always work out.  Sometimes friends who live together can discover things about each other that can ruin their relationship.

It is okay to have a friendly, respectful relationship with the people you live with and not be close. To maintain your friendships, both new ones and the long-distance ones from home, you need to set time aside to devote to your friends by chatting with them on the phone or on Skype.

Be a good friend by listening and not monopolizing conversations or only talking about yourself. Remember what your friends tell you and respect their privacy and confidence. It is also important not to hold a grudge and to make sure you express your feelings if you are upset with a friend.

Talk directly to the person you are upset with rather than everyone else. It is normal for friendships to change and sometimes to end. This is difficult and painful, but it’s a natural part of life. Sometimes certain friendships can be close again in the future, and sometimes they are over for good.

Figure out what you want in a friendship now. Ask yourself ‘am I enjoying spending time with my friend or does this friendship feel like too much work on my part?’
Or, ‘am I always initiating times together with this friend? If so, is the friendship worth the work?’Maybe you just need to talk to your friend and make changes so that the friendship can progress.

Sadly, sometimes friends can turn into bullies. Then you must ask yourself whether you want to keep a friend in your life when they are being disrespectful to you and constantly putting you down.
If you still care about the person despite their behaviour, I know of some great counsellors at Counselling Services who can help you to gain more self-confidence and learn to expect respect.

letters@thecord.ca


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