Each month Personal Best will publish a selection of personal reflections, concerns, questions and comments around a certain subject or theme, shared by community members on our online forums. This month we focus on building friendships and social connectedness while experiencing a mental health condition.

Summer Rose suggests joining a club

"My suggestion for making new friends is to join some clubs at your place of study. Clubs provide a natural connection and there is nothing better to bond people than to work toward a common goal. From putting on a play, reviewing books, playing sport or music, it helps to have a common interest."

  Team playing sport

Missberri on making new friends

“So, I guess I'm just wondering how do people even make new friends? I've never been good at this kind of thing. I have bad social anxiety and I'm terrible at just going up and talking to people. I just feel really silly. I don't even know what to say if I walk up to someone. I find the hardest thing is going out and meeting new people. How would I then maintain connection with people and become friends? I'm terrible at this. My new year’s resolution this year was to try and be more sociable. I really want to enjoy myself this year, so I want to improve my social life and make time for people. I don't want to feel lonely and down in the dumps.” 

Hound Dog provides some helpful tips

“Due to fear of rejection I feel extremely self-conscious in social situations. First at school, then work and social gatherings. I am not competitive, cannot deal with aggressive people or those who are incapable of treating people as equals. I have panic attacks but have learnt to deal with them so that they don’t affect my quality of life too much. I'm fortunate to have a supportive partner and moved to a better environment when I retired.”

Hound Dog looks after his mental health by:

  • Practising mindful meditation every day
  • Walking every day
  • Owns a dog (for unconditional love)
  • Spending time in nature and appreciating its beauty
  • Only drinking alcohol in small quantities
  • Drinking decaffeinated coffee
  • Eating a healthy diet and loves cooking
  • Going for regular health checks
 Owner walking dog

Pinkwren on social anxiety

“It can be difficult to overcome social anxiety. For me, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and 'exposure' therapy is a very effective way of treating social anxiety. It continually exposes you to the situations that make you anxious, and over time, the anxiety decreases. I know that depression and social anxiety play a huge role in the interference of sleep. From personal experience, they sometimes make it nearly impossible to sleep; and to silence the thoughts and worries in my head. I’ve found medication to be extremely helpful for improving my sleep, as well as my social anxiety and depression. Along with CBT, it has been the most effective treatment for my mental health.”

Brof gets involved in different activities

“As for my social life, I am home schooled so it's harder to make connections, and the added anxiety I feel about meeting people makes it even harder. But don't fear that! I have made a lot of online friends through different interests; however, this isn’t everyone's cup of tea. Getting out of the school or home environment and getting involved in different activities, whether that be a sport or going to the gym, really helps. Having a job or volunteering is also a good way of making connections and helps with the social side of things. But honestly, you only need one or two good friends to keep you happy, friendship groups can be toxic.”

mb20lover talks about loneliness and isolation

“I live in a small country town in regional Victoria, with about 4,000 or so people. It’s a place where everyone knows everyone pretty much, except me. I like the scenery, it has nice walking tracks, a lake, bird life, and it’s peaceful. But that’s about it really. Some days the loneliness and isolation really gets to me. Everyone is three to five hours away and I don't talk to, or see, anyone.”

Man walking in park

Elizabeth CP on social connection

“Social connection is important, but it needs to be with people you are comfortable with. I'm much better with people on a one-to-one basis rather than groups.”

Bec2014 sees a psychologist

“I have been seeing a psychologist for a year now and have finally made some progress in addressing my deep-set anxiety and depression. I wasn’t overly bullied at school, but I wasn’t resilient enough to deal with constant horrible gossip and peers sneakily trying to bring me down. This resulted in me retreating into myself and not having much self-confidence. Issues with low self-esteem has stayed with me well into my thirties. I have an upcoming group event and – sure enough – the panic, embarrassment, and depressive thoughts are back, and they are frustrating. I would love to seek the advice of others who are going/have gone through similar experiences. I like to think that one day I can move on from those awful high school days properly.”

Blufftuff focuses on the positives

“At school I had very few friends due to a disability I have had for over 35 years now. Over the years I have battled isolation, anxiety and depression; I understand how difficult it is. The key for me was to find someone who was willing to walk my journey with me and be there for me when needed. Personally, I had to also change my attitude and focus strongly on the positive not the negative thoughts, which I had great difficulty doing.” 

 

 

The Beyond Blue online forums are a great way to connect with people online in a safe and anonymous environment. Discussion topics cover anxiety, depression, suicide and a range of other life issues. Anyone in Australia can participate in discussions, connect with others and share their experiences with our community.

Note that all names listed above are pseudonyms and that quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.

If you’re feeling distressed visit Beyond Blue’s support services. Our mental health professionals are available 24/7 on: 1300 22 4636. Click here for a web chat (3pm-12am AEST). Alternatively, contact us via email (responses within 24 hours).

For immediate support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and in an emergency, always call triple zero (000).

Related reading: The mental health benefits of playing a team sport

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