When I was a little girl, my mother taught me a short song that went like this: “The more we get together, together, together - The more we get together, the happier we’ll be. ‘Cause your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends. The more we get together, the happier we’ll be!”
I remember feeling quite joyful and excited as my mother held my hands within hers while we danced around in a circle and sang that song to each other. She smiled at me and I smiled back at her. The comfort of the song was in knowing that I could have friends and that we would look out for each other. I was a shy child, so sharing my feelings and making friends did not always come easy. However, when I made friends, it did make life a happier place for me to be. I had my friends’ backs, so to speak, and I knew without any doubt that they also had mine.
The world seems to be a much busier place right now than it was when I was growing up. People have so many places to go and so many people to see! Social media grabs and holds our attention. Work, school, and other parts of our schedules can make it hard to have steady friendships. Time is needed for people to really talk and engage. “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.” How do we make this happen? And how do we know when our friends might need some extra attention and care? These are important questions to ask ourselves during Suicide Awareness Month, and beyond.
Here are a few tips and suggestions:
Take Care of Yourself First
I have been a workaholic before and to the point where burnout became my middle name. I am kidding about the middle name part, but I hope that you get my point. I would work almost all day and all night. I did not use the weekends for fun and relaxation. When my friends asked me to go out with them, I often made an excuse. I just could not seem to stop working so much.
This was an unhealthy situation for me. I would not want that to happen to you. Make time for your own self-care. Not find the time. MAKE the time. Do the things that you enjoy. Listen to your own body when it is telling you that it needs to rest. I had to learn how to be my own best friend. Now I can be a good friend to others. This may be good advice for you, too. Take care of yourself first.
Schedule Time to Talk and Meet
It may seem silly to schedule a time to hang out and chat with your friends. But I have found that if we do not schedule, other things in life will “swallow up” our free time and we might not fit our friendships in. What if your friend is going through a really hard time? Would you know it? And if so, what would you do? Scheduling time could help the other person take time out for friendship, too!
Be Intentional and Stay Kind
If a friend is going through a really hard time, your check-ins with them might need to be more frequent. I will sometimes call a friend each day and let them know that they are on my mind. If sending a text message works best, that is okay, too. But to hear that person’s voice, and for the other voice to be heard, can become like a ray of sunshine for the person who is suffering in their emotions.
My friends have done this for me when I needed it most. Even if I was feeling grumpy or very sad, just knowing that someone in my circle took time to reach out to me made a big difference, whether I admitted it or not. That kind of care reminds me of my mother holding my hand as we danced around in a circle and sang about the beauty and happiness of making friendship connections.
Make New Friends When You Can
I love meeting new people! I see the world as an exciting place and I enjoy learning about different cultures and people groups. My curiosity and openness have led to the creation of lasting friendships with people who live all over the world! Make new friends when you can. Differences do not have to become dividers. Just like the colors of a rainbow, differences can be very beautiful and enriching!
As human beings, we all have a basic need, and that is to belong. Finding friendships which center around common interests and goals can be a good thing, too. Make new friends with people who are healthy for you. These will be people who see your value and who appreciate who you are as a person. Scheduling time with them and being intentional in your kindness towards them will be wonderful.
Listen and Take Further Action When Needed
Marcfirst will be sharing more with you about some steps that you can take when and if one of your friends (or any loved one) is struggling in their mental health. This type of crisis can happen to anyone and at any time. But you can become better informed about the signs to look for when a person might need emergency help, counseling, or other things that would help them along the way.
Remember that every person and every relationship is different. But having a friend and being a friend is needed by each of us. “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be!”
About the author:
Taj Artis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who has a heart for helping people of all ages. She has been a Marcfirst team member for 3 years. In her free time, Taj enjoys singing, writing poetry, watching action movies, and spending time with her loved ones.
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You may know us as Marcfirst, but we've recently undergone a name change. Why? Because in every phase of life, it’s never a question of if we helped. It’s how we help that truly counts. And how much we helped. Because our clients never outgrow us. And, we never outgrow them. Hence, our new name: Lifelong Access.