The true value of friendship

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Ishbel Straker says friends can have a vital role in giving us perspective.

In true British fashion, I set myself up for a glorious summer as the sun beamed down on us in May and June. But then the July torrential rain arrived and disappointment set in, with all memory of sunning myself in the garden departing from my mind.

I felt disheartened and frustrated by the awful English weather we were experiencing, and resigned myself to this disappointment as being par for the course when living England.

It was only when I started to discuss this with a friend that they recalled the beautiful weather – they reminded me of what June had been, the trips to the beach, the children playing in the paddling pool, me planning an outdoor living room because the concept of being inside was incomprehensible.

I was grateful for this conversation; it enabled me to gain both clarity and perspective. I left that encounter with a sense of balance and feeling far less disgruntled.

But if this conversation was a turning point in my perspective of summer, how much more important is it to have these encounters when it comes to our mental outlook? We need to walk alongside people who give us perspective. Not in an unpleasantly harsh way, but with a gentle, redirectional approach.

When we feel low or anxious, everything can feel like a trigger to falling more deeply into a negative emotion. It’s important to have people that we trust around us, who can guide our thoughts back to the reality of situations at times.

This can be both good and bad – sometimes the reality may be more painful than we had initially thought. Sometimes it can feel a little better than we at first perceived.

You may be thinking, “Why am I being prescribed a friend when this is supposed to be a mental health article with some clinically sound advice?” I appreciate that thought, but we shouldn’t underestimate the power of friendship when it comes to our well-being, good and bad. There are some incredibly busy people out there who are not short on acquaintances, but true friendships are scarce.

And these friendships can be the preventative measure to treatment or the guiding light towards support when it’s needed.

So I challenge you to consider: do I need a quality friend? Do I have such friends around me but fail to utilise them effectively? Or, are you such a friend to someone, yet missing the opportunity to be the lighthouse in their storm?

• Ishbel Straker is a Consultant Psychiatric Nurse, INP. She is the Founder and CEO of I Straker Consultants, a mental health service. Ishbel has worked in psychiatry since 2004, and one of her passions is the mental well-being within ministry. She has been working with Elim developing this provision for nearly three years, and it continues to grow.

From Direction Magazine

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