Mental Health Awareness Week: Friends vs Frenemies

In support of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week theme of loneliness, Suzy Reading is sharing an extract from her book "This Book Will (Help) Make You Happy", published by Wren & Rook and beautifully illustrated by Alex Paterson. Read on for practical tips on how to create healthy connections - the perfect antidote to loneliness.

A dog and cat share a tray

Illustrations © Alex Paterson

Friends vs Frenemies

We need our friends almost as much as we need air to breathe. But what make a good friend? Sometimes friendship can be confusing. People can be kind one day and ignore us the next. Being clear on what you value in a friendship can be very useful in sorting out the friends from the frenemies…
What makes a good mate and how can you be one too?

- Good friends bring out the best in you, they say and do kind things, they’re happy for you when good stuff happens in your life and they’re there for you when you need support.
- Sometimes it’s your love of a common interest that brings you together but you don’t have to have everything in common. Good friends will celebrate your differences too, giving you space to be you and liking you for who you are.
- You know you can trust your good friends with your secrets.
- If you have a disagreement, good friends will let you know when you’ve upset them, and when you let them know they’ve hurt your feelings, a good mate will apologise and try not to make the same mistake again.
- Good friendships are balanced. This is where you both have a turn making decisions, you both have a chance to talk and you both make sure you take the time to listen.
- Bear in mind that everyone has off days, even your best friends will get it wrong sometimes. We all make mistakes, so good friends will cut each other some slack at times.

Be on the lookout for frenemies! Sometimes people seem to be your friend, but their behaviour towards you can change from kind to unkind with seemingly little reason. Perhaps this person isn’t someone to depend upon:

- Frenemies are not loyal, they might share your secrets or talk about you behind your back.
- They might put limits on your friendship or pressure you to do things you don’t want to do, saying you can only be friends if you do what they tell you.
- Frenemies sometimes let you join in and leave you out at other times.
- They say mean things or laugh at you.
- Frenemies have a talent for making you feel bad about yourself.

If someone is being unkind to you, remember it is not your fault. It’s not you that needs to change. No one has the right to hurt you or pressure you to do anything. You can try to talk to them about their behaviour, explaining how it makes you feel. It’s possible they didn’t realise, so give them a chance to step up and be a good friend.

If they apologise, it shows you they care. If they blame you or shrug it off, you know this isn’t someone to choose to be around. It can be sad and scary to move on from a friendship, but remember, you deserve to be treated with kindness.

Know your true friends and choose to spend time with them. And if you find you’re wanting to make some new friends, joining clubs or getting involved in activities you love is a great way to meet new people. Don’t wait to be asked, invite others to join you!

You can find Suzy's brilliant book 'This Book Will (Help) Make You Happy' here.

You can follow Suzy on Instagram @suzyreading.

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