Friends might be hard to find for many teens, regardless of whether they have a mental illness. Yet, for those who have depression, anxiety, or another form of mental illness, finding friends can become a major challenge.
At the same time, it’s actually important for teens to spend time with friends. Teens are searching for a sense of self during this life stage and being able to be with others is an essential component to this life task. Positive experiences with friends and peers can help build inner strength and resilience. And resilience is an important trait to have when faced with a mental illness.
Resilience, in particular, is a psychological quality that can assist teens in saying no to drugs, curbing peer pressure, knowing when to make the right choices, and avoiding risky behavior. For instance, resilient teens are those who have learned to manage stress effectively. They tend to be those who have healthy relationships with adults, easy going dispositions, and inner resources that position them to move easily into adulthood. Building resilience is easy enough with specific activities that each teen can implement into his or her lifestyle.
For all these reasons, having supportive friendships as a teen can make a significant difference. Here are some ideas for finding friends and creating long-lasting friendships:
Find a friend through your common interests. To find other teens with whom you might be able to form friendships, begin with what you enjoy doing. Whether it’s sports, a hobby, a place where you enjoy spending your time, common interests can immediately draw people together.
Find a friend through other friends. If you already have at least one or two friends that you feel comfortable with, they might be a way to form new friendships.
Find a friend through family members. If you have a close family member, such as a brother, sister, or cousin, they might know of someone you can spend time with and form a new friendship.
Find a friend through community events. Although this might be the most challenging, it could be the most rewarding. You might consider joining an intramural sports team, art class, book club. Most communities and neighborhoods have activities that are listed in the local paper. And, of course, you can look online at Meetup Groups or search sites that list local ongoing events.
Find a friend through a volunteer or work position. Meeting a friend through work or a volunteer position is a common way to form friendships. You already have a fixed place to spend time together where you can slowly get to know each other.
Teens want to be surrounded by connection with others. Too much isolation could lead to risky behavior, poor decision-making, and perhaps even make a mental illness worse. Strong friendships can facilitate healthy adolescent growth and provide support, particularly for those who struggle with a mental illness.
However, it’s important to remember that friendships need to be maintained. Part of having a friendship is being a good friend. Teens may have to be reminded to listen to their friends when they need to be heard, and to provide their support in return. If your teen struggles with a mental illness, he or she might have to decide how soon to disclose to a new friend what they’re going through. Or a teen might decide not to tell their new friends at all. Regardless, having friends can make a significant difference in a teen’s emotional and psychological well being.