A student-led initiative to improve mental health awareness at Wabash College and across Indiana. Check out some of our student-writers below​!

  • The MHCC

Thank You For Being A Friend

Life is fundamentally about relationships, and people do business with those they know and like.

That was one of the key points of a Chapel Talk I gave in January 2017 encouraging people to make the most of their time at Wabash by living in the moment, laughing often, having lunch with interesting people, and answering the phone when your friends call.

I was blown away by the reaction to my talk. I had numerous people come up to me in the days and weeks after my speech and share their stories about their struggles with mental health. They took me up on my offer of a free lunch or cup of coffee, and I was able to develop some awesome friendships with people across campus.

Those friendships have helped sustain me at my worst, ground me at my best, and provide daily opportunities to learn and grow as a person and as a professional.

If what social scientists say is true, you are the average of the five people with whom you spend most of your time.

We can feel pretty lucky then that we have so many incredible people surrounding us every day.

But did you know that friendships are an important part of being both mentally and physically healthy?

Numerous researchers have looked at the links between the quality and quantity of friendships and mental and physical health. (This article from The New York Times gives a pretty good summary).

People with strong friendships are less likely to suffer from mental health disorders, heart disease, and high blood pressure. They are also better equipped to manage their mental health.

I didn’t realize how impactful friendships can be until I experienced my first bout with major depression. I had many “friends” but very few people I felt comfortable with sharing my struggles with depression and anxiety.

When I was fighting depression, I basically dumped every struggle on this friend and it became an incredible burden. Luckily for me, he was patient enough to help me through that struggle and I emerged from it with better strategies for managing relationships and my mental health.

In my struggles with depression and anxiety, I continue to have highs and lows, but I emerge each time having learned from the experience. And the biggest lesson so far has been that it’s incredibly important to have quality friendships with people who can love, challenge, and support you.

Here are some tips on how you can develop and maintain strong relationships:

1. Say I Love You

One of the coolest things about Wabash is the power of the brotherhood. Gender stereotypes and societal pressure make it really hard for men to develop friendly relationships with other men. At Wabash, these bonds seem to form naturally.

When I went to graduate school, I formed a close friendship with one of the other guys in our program and would say, “I love you, man” after we’d get together for meals or coffee. This definitely seemed weird to him at first, but he eventually realized that it’s just my nature to tell my friends that I love them. Plus, you never know when or if you’ll see someone again, so it’s best they know how much they mean to you!

2. Make a Time Commitment

Everyone is busy. Inside the Wabash bubble, it can be easy to become overwhelmed while trying to manage a busy calendar. Balancing your studies, sports, artistic endeavors, sleep, and a social life can be challenging.

However, you probably have more control over your schedule than you realize. I encourage everyone to chart how they spend every hour of every day for one week. You will likely find you have more idle time than you realize, and you can devote some of this time to developing and maintaining relationships.

In my life, things don’t happen unless I schedule time for them. That’s why I have several standing appointments to check in with the people I care about most.

3. Discuss Important Topics

I get really excited when talking about big ideas. In fact, a couple weeks ago, I started getting together with a group of people on campus to discuss big ideas. This week we started out choosing a topic ahead of time and come ready to discuss that idea.

Other times, we share stories about our lives or talk about our successes and struggles. Knowing that I have a group of people who not only know about my life but also know about my beliefs and values makes it that much more likely that we confide in each other when we need help.

4. Never Eat Alone

I talked about this in my Chapel Talk, but I read a really awesome book by Keith Ferrazzi called “Never Eat Alone.” Ferrazzi’s argument in the book is simple: don’t waste your meal time by eating alone, take each meal as an opportunity to build a relationship.

There are hundreds of people on Wabash’s campus every day. I challenge to grab a cup of coffee or make plans for lunch or dinner with someone you don’t know. These seemingly small encounters will likely leave you refreshed and excited.

So thanks to everyone that has ever been a friend to me. If you’d like to grab a cup of coffee, send me an email or text. I’d love getting to know you!

-Tyler Wade