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6 Tips for Making Friends While Struggling With Mental Illness

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Mental illness is more common than most people think. Around one out of every five adults will deal with some form of mental illness in their lifetime. If you’re that one person, trying to make friends might seem about as appealing as pulling your teeth out, but a good group of friends can also be an invaluable support structure to help you through your darkest times. If you’re having trouble making friends, here are a few tips and tricks that might help you bring awesome new people into your life.

1. Love yourself.

It’s so much easier to get other people to love you if you take the time to love yourself first. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but it can help you make friends. You’ll also find if you feel better about yourself, it can make things easier to bear (though I’m not suggesting this is a cure for mental illness). Try focusing on your physical health, making a list of small goals or just doing something you enjoy every day.

2. Join a support group.

Mental health support groups can be a great place to make friends because you don’t have to worry about being judged for your mental illness. Usually, everyone in the group is going through a similar experience and is trying to find ways to reach out and connect with other people. Don’t feel like you have to stay with one support group just because it’s the first one you picked. Feel free to try a bunch until you find a group of people you mesh with.

3. Take a class.

You don’t have to go back to school for this trick. Find a class that offers something you’re interested in like cooking, sewing, painting, etc. These classes can be a great way to find people who have similar interests while doing something you enjoy. Plus, you can hone skills you already have and learn new skills at the same time.

4. Stay connected.

The trickiest part of making friendships that stick is staying connected. If you meet someone you’re interested in fostering a friendship with, get some contact details. Phone numbers, Twitter handles, Facebook details — the type of contact info doesn’t matter. The trick is to stay in touch so you can build the friendship up. People tend to think social media is isolating us because we’re all constantly staring at our phones, but recent studies have found the opposite is true. Facebook users, for example, have been found to have closer and stronger relationships than those who don’t use social media. Social media can also help you stay in touch with people who might live a bit further away.

5. Ask for help.

If you’re seeing a therapist — or considering visiting one — mention to them you’re having trouble making friends. They’ll have a better understanding of your specific situation than any random “how-to” site, and they might be able to offer advice or tricks that might help you more because they’re catered to you. Therapists are there to help you, not to judge your friend-making skills, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you have the option to do so.

6. Find someone who loves you for you.

Instead of worrying about judgment from friends, spend your time surrounding yourself with people who love you no matter what. You need friends who understand sometimes it’s hard for you to get out of bed, or sometimes you might have a ton of energy and other times you don’t. Just find someone who loves you for you. That’s the most important thing. If you decide later they need to know about your mental illness, that’s entirely up to you, but you don’t need to build your friendships on that.

Making and maintaining friendships might seem like an insurmountable hurdle when you’re struggling to just get out of bed in the morning, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to help you deal with your mental illness. Build up a good support network to help you through the hard times, and you’ll have an amazing group to help you celebrate all the good times as well.

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Thinkstock photo via criene.

Originally published: April 10, 2017
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