I need love ’cause only love is true
I need every waking hour with you
And my friends ’cause they’re so beautiful
Yeah, my friends they are so beautiful
They’re my friends
Excuse the corny intro, but the lyrics to Band of Skulls’ Friends ring so true that I wanted you to see them. So today, in honour of World Mental Health Day 2017, let’s talk about the value — nay, the necessity — of having a supportive group of friends at university.
If you’re a student, you are likely no stranger to meltdowns/existential crises/general paranoia. And if you’re fortunate, you’ve got a caring family waiting for you back home, whom you can call when things get tough. But sometimes, when deadlines and drama are knocking at your door and you’ve got nowhere to run to, family just isn’t close enough to help. That’s where friends come in.
I’m not talking about the students who bum you for a cigarette before class, or who sweetly ask to borrow your lecture notes a week before a test (or the ones who smother you with compliments when they’re drunk and then pretend not to see you on campus). I’m talking about the students who genuinely care, the ones who will sit and listen as you melt into a blubbering mess in their room on a Tuesday night. The friends who will throw your arm over their shoulder and walk you home at 3am. Most importantly, the friends who are on your level of weird, so you find yourself in an environment where you can fly your freak flags as high as they’ll go and never fear being judged or misunderstood.
I can proudly say that I found most of my fellow weirdos during Orientation Week in first year. I am currently living with one of said weirdos, and let me tell you, having a friend there when shit gets tough is something for which I’ll be forever grateful. University is a scary and unpredictable place; we’re all going through the most, and the state of our mental health is regularly at stake. Equally important is your ability to be there for your friends when they need you. Every night, my roommate and I plop onto our creaky, beloved couch and gush out all our complaints, our joys, our ailments, and whatever other experiences the day tossed our way. We check up on each other’s well-being, we console, we laugh. You can’t do that with just anyone.
Over the last three years, I’ve grown closer and closer to my friends, and can freely talk to them about depression and anxiety, as can they. I’ve shared thoughts that I had once deemed only fit for psychiatrists’ offices and forgotten journals. It’s not all misery and meltdowns, I promise, but when you find the students who are there through bad times, then the good times are a given.
Making friends isn’t always easy, which is why some UCKAR students started a meet-up group in 2015*, to help the more reserved students to find their people. One thing you’ll do at varsity, over and over again in various situations, is step out of your comfort zone. Engaging with students and finding friends is daunting, but trust me, when you find your people, you’ll wonder how you ever thought you’d survive campus life alone.
*The group has since dissolved, but it may be re-emerging in 2018 – a win for awkward students!
Header image and featured photos: Guinevere Shapiro