Support of Friendships

Support of friendships and having strong relationships that give a sense of love, belonging and acceptance is important in our lives.  Many people have felt this personally during the Covid-19 pandemic while contact with friends has been limited, severely in many cases.  The results of the reduction in social contact are still being found, but there is report of higher incidence of mental ill-health and increased frailty leading to higher susceptibility to injury and illness.

Theories of psychology and mental health give friendship as one of the fundamentals to our wellbeing. The Five ways to wellbeing includes Connecting with People, and in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs personal connection comes next after the basic physical requirements of food and clothing, and safety and security.

Guideposts’ work continues to put social connection at the core of our services, recognising that friendship is so important to living well, no matter what else you might have to deal with in your life.

We spoke to some members of Guideposts’ Community Mental Health Hub at Henry Smith House, who told us why their friendships are so valuable.

Emma

I have been attending Henry Smith House for about 10 years, so I know some people here quite well now, it’s a very friendly community overall. There are some people I have met here who have become really good friends.

For example, Chris has been a friend since I started here. We have a mutual appreciation of each other. We don’t attend many of the same groups as each other at the moment, but we still text each other regularly and know that we are there for each other.

Chloe is also a very good friend. We have a lot in common and understand each other, and we both have acute OCD. We have similar interests and attend a lot of the same groups, which at the moment includes the art group and laughter therapy.

I struggle with OCD most days. I get down about it, although I don’t like to bother people. But I can call Chloe to talk about it, and she understands me and what I’m going through. It’s incredibly helpful to have a friend like that.

Victoria

When you walk in to Henry Smith House there’s a feeling that you can have a chat with anyone. Everyone wants to be friendly and kind. I really look forward to it.

The staff at Henry Smith House help to set the scene for friendships to form. They are friendly and helpful themselves, and you feel you can talk about any problems.

When I first came here I was very shy. But the community here made me feel very comfortable, and as I have become more confident I can open up more easily and talk to people.

I had only been attending for a little while when Covid-19 struck. Friendships were very new. However, I volunteered to help with tidying up and decorating in Henry Smith House while it was otherwise closed, and got to know people much better while doing that.

I have made a really good friendship with Caroline. We meet for coffee from time to time, and chat on the phone. We are both a bit quirky, and we ‘get’ each other! We have different issues in terms of mental health, but we are in a similar situation. If I’m feeling sad or alone, calling her to tell her how I’m feeling helps. We try to give each other advice, but it doesn’t always work of course!

With friends outside of Guideposts I might talk about my mental health a little but not in detail. But with friends in Henry Smith House I can talk about it much more. You know you’re not going to be judged – it’s really important to have that connection.

Stephen

During the pandemic while contact with friends hasn’t been so easy, the importance of friends has become even more apparent. Whatsapp groups and speaking to people on the phone have been very important, while going for a coffee or a meal wasn’t possible.

Enabling people to make friends is a big part of what happens at Henry Smith House. I have made some close friends, many of whom I meet up with weekly and one who I speak to every day.

Nick and I first met when we were both in hospital, and then bumped into each other again at Henry Smith House. He is a person I can talk to openly. He has a different diagnosis to me but we support each other in our mental health, amongst plenty of talk about books and films. In extreme cases, Nick is open enough to tell me to talk to the doctor. He has helped me to stay well, and kept me out of hospital.

At Henry Smith House we are all on a level playing field – everyone’s going through similar things. I have very good friends elsewhere, and I see my family a lot, but I wouldn’t talk to them in the same way.

Formalising Friendship

Friendship is something that for many people comes naturally, when you ‘hit it off’ with someone, perhaps finding interests or a sense of humour in common. Support workers like Jane have seen time and time again how friendships and support from peers make a big difference to people’s wellbeing and she wanted to see more people benefit from it.

Jane now runs a Guideposts service to help those who might like some friendly support from a peer who understands what they are going through, but perhaps hasn’t met someone who understands, or doesn’t have the confidence to develop that kind of relationship.  

This worked particularly well within a group of people suffering from anxiety. They buddied up to help each other with tasks that they found difficult. One person had anxiety about travelling on a train, while another wanted help with household budgeting. They found help from others in the group, and the givers of help discovered strengths in themselves that boosted their self-confidence as well.

We are grateful for all the people who contribute to making Guideposts at Henry Smith House and across south west Hertfordshire such a friendly and supportive community. If you think you could benefit from joining us please get in touch.

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One Response to “Support of Friendships

  • Keith
    4 months ago

    There clients are not overly friendly with me but that doesn’t overly bother me. I like the staff who have been at Henry Smith House for a long time , the old Guard as I call them (I make that comment with affectionate meaning). A lot has happened to me and myfam