According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 1-in-5 college aged adults (18-25 years old) have struggled with a mental illness while in college. How does friendship affect mental health? Friends, true friends, are there for you during the good times AND the bad times. Studies have shown that adults with stronger social circles and support systems have a reduced risk of many health problems including multiple types of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
Friends? How many of us have them? We support each other, we care, we protect each other, we look out for each other, and we show up for the people who mean something to us. Quality friendships have the potential to give us feelings of compassion, belonging, and happiness. They can help improve self-worth and to cope. This private event was started by three young ladies and my friends Ebony Leaks, Mastasia Lewis, and Kiyra Roberts. Wild N’ Out Wednesday was started for the sole purpose of having fun. A wind down during the middle of the week to shake off the pressures of being in college but it became a safe haven. And no, it’s not just a party or a kickback. It’s really an invite-only, group therapy session for friends. College is hard for any individual and students need breaks. What started as something totally recreational became fundamental. The happiness expressed as we greet one another, the fun we have while we’re together… it became so important to us, goals were set. Not only were we making sure our work was done before attending, some of us would make sure it was done for the whole week. It extended beyond wilding out, priorities were set. Life is a puzzle and we are all pieces. Somewhere you fit and you may never know exactly where you belong at first but someone’s puzzle couldn’t be completed without you. Friendship isn’t a big thing, but in fact all the little things. It’s that subtle rub on the back when no one else is looking, that kick in the ass, it’s that hug you said you said you didn’t want but in actuality really needed, that one corny joke that made you laugh and forget everything else in your life that sucks even if it’s just for five minutes. It’s knowing that someone cares about you when you feel like your back is against the wall. The fact that someone is just – there. Someone to remind you why you’re here and what you’re doing this for. Someone to make you remember that we get choices and while you may have been dealt a bad hand, it’s up to you to decide how the cards get played. And no, we don’t sit around every Wednesday in a circle holding hands crying because we’re too busy celebrating. Celebrating the fact that despite every horrible thing that is happening in our individual lives right now…we’re alive. We are upright, walking & talking, and we live to fight another week. We did it and will keep doing it because only the passionate prevail. These are the things that we remember. The things that we hold onto. The friendship, the lifelong connections, the moments we look back on 20 years later. Your friends are chosen family. Find you some real friends. People who encourage you and support you in more ways than one. Find you friends that help you protect your peace because THAT IS EVERYTHING. Blood makes you related, LOVE makes you a family.
**If you are in need of someone to talk to please contact the SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
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