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Friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health. Our friends can keep us grounded, help us get things in perspective, and help us manage the problems that life throws at us. But friendships can play a key role in helping us live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it. Both can be difficult to do, so we have tips on how to start a conversation, offer support, and look after yourself. If you have a mental health problem, you may feel ashamed of 'admitting' to it. You don't have to tell your friends - and you certainly don't have to tell everyone.
For Ashley, it was like this: She was sitting with a big group in the school lunchroom when she accidentally knocked her drink onto her lap. As word spread that it looked like Ashley had wet herself, the laughter began to mount.
Then she noticed her best friend doing something strange. True friendship is hard to find, Ashley says. But she knows it when she sees it. And so do many of you. We asked our readers what it takes to be a good friend. More than 5, of you shared your thoughts on friendship. For some, the defining moments of friendship were profound, such as the soulmate who helps you through the grief of losing a family member or camps out in your hospital room when you're sick. For others, it's smaller gestures that loom large — the friend who talks for hours when you're feeling alone, even if it means going over on his cell phone minutes; the one who helps you with your homework, even when she hasn't done her own; or the friend who helps you search for your retainer, even when it means going through the garbage from the school lunch.
Big or small, it's actions that seem to count the most in friendship.
Friendship and mental health
In a time when we can chat effortlessly by text and IM, talk is getting cheaper. Many of you believe that the evidence of true friends is what they do to show their loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness, or willingness to make a sacrifice when you need help. Kaitlin, 14, told us about a friend who took the blame for her when she got in a fight at school.
Her friend was suspended for 10 days. And Marissa, 16, said she discovered the difference between a close friend and casual friend on a school trip to California. It works both ways: Nearly three quarters of the people who wrote to us said they do as much for their friends as their friends do for them.
What it means to be a friend
Sometimes the most treasured acts of friendship are those for which you expect to get nothing in return, not even credit for a good deed. Elaina, 15, remembers the day she went clothes shopping with her best friend, who is overweight. The saleslady was being rude to her friend because there was so little in her size and nothing fit quite right.
Elaina is proud of how she helped her friend that day.
Beware the one-sided friendship
Many of the people who wrote us thought it was important to have a best friend, one who stood out from the rest. Some of you described the communication between best friends as being a perfectly clear connection, almost as if it's on a frequency only they can hear. Often what you look for in your best friend is good judgment. Jackie, 14, said the nicest thing a friend did for her was to tell her mom a secret Jackie had told to her friend — that she was extremely depressed. Not everyone thinks it's important to have one best friend.
Molly, 14, said that together her friends make up all the aspects of what one "true friend' would be. So really, no one person can fill every void in your life.
Friendship isn't easy. To hear many of you tell it, making a good friend is almost like adding a new family member. It comes with risk and responsibility. It's almost like you are investing in this one person, whoever it may be. Sometimes what a good friend needs from you is brutal honesty, not a cheerleader. Gretchen, 15, said: "A true friend is a person who would really tell you how bad you look in that bright pink spandex suit, even though you really like it.
Friends aren't always forever. Angelica tells the story of a friendship that began in kindergarten. She remembers how close they were back in the days when she helped her friend cope with diabetes, sat with her after her appendix was removed, and listened to her as she struggled with family problems. But her friend moved away recently and hasn't returned her calls.
How to cope when a friend breaks up with you
Angelica has heard that her friend now hangs out with kids who drink and do drugs. But I feel too far away.
Romance, like distance, can complicate things. Many teens told of friendships that soured after their friend began seeing someone.
I've learned my lesson. Many of you learned the true value of friendship after it was gone. Lots of you urged people to work at their most important friendships, rather than letting them fall apart after a fight or fade away. Roxanne, 15, said her closest friend committed suicide recently. Her advice on how to treat your friends?
And for some, it was OK if good friends only accompanied them for part of their journey in life. People grow and change, and so do their friends. Lily, 14, said her best friend will be moving away this year.
Lily will try to stay in contact, but she is realistic about the prospects. Larger text size Large text size Regular text size. Acts of Friendship For Ashley, it was like this: She was sitting with a big group in the school lunchroom when she accidentally knocked her drink onto her lap. What Friends Do for You Big or small, it's actions that seem to count the most in friendship.