More and more studies point to the link between strong friendships and good mental health.

A study from the Journal of The National Medical Association in the US, for example, discovered that those people with “insufficient perceived social support were most likely to suffer from mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.”

According the Mayo Clinic, friendships have a positive effect on your physical and mental health in a number of ways. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too.

Friends can also:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

Worried About Saying The Wrong Thing

Here at The Friendship Bench, we’ve seen firsthand the positive and dramatic effect that students can have on the mental health of their close friends, as well other students with whom they may not be as familiar. The key is taking the time to pay attention, to reach out and say “hello.”

However, too often we don’t reach out to those in need because we don’t know what to say or are worried that what we say may cause more harm than help, which is a valid concern.

At the end of the day, unless you’re a trained counselor, the best option is to connect your friend with a professional who is. Yet, you can’t just remain silent.

Whether you’re the one suffering or the one offering help, speaking to each other is critical.

To help, the University of Michigan’s CampusMindworks has put together a list of helpful and unhelpful statements that may guide you in responding to friends suffering with stress, anxiety, or depression.

NOTE: While these tips may help start a conversation, it’s imperative that those suffering connect with mental health support services on-campus or in the community.

Check out our list of resources here. If it’s an emergency, please call 911.

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