Mental Health and Friends: Supportive VS Toxic Relationships

If Helping A Friend Hurts, Your Friendship Might Be A Toxic One

There's a difference between supportive friendship and toxic relationships.


What constitutes a healthy friendship? A strong relationship typically consists of laughter, shared interests, and perhaps most importantly love and support. A good friend stands by their buddies in times of need and offers a much-needed hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on. Take that recipe for friendship and mix in a good dose of mental illness and the terms become hazy: at what point does that hand become cramped or that shoulder need to be stretched out?

When does love and support become a crutch that only temporarily fixes a much more permanent problem?

Mental illness is an increasingly common issue facing teens and young adults. Despite its prevalence in society, disorders ranging from anxiety and depression to anorexia and everything in between are still largely stigmatized; many young people struggling with these illnesses are reluctant to reach out for the professional help they so desperately need out of fear of repercussion.

As a result, many of these kids find solace in their friends, often swearing them to secrecy. This not only prevents the person dealing with the illness from getting real help; it also places a huge burden on the person offering their support. This can put many young people in a tough situation: do they risk their friendship by attempting to get their friend help, or do they stay silent and keep their friend's trust but risk their friend's well-being as well as their own?

This particular situation is more common than you might think. I had the opportunity to write about this subject in my ethics class last year—and I recently presented the topic in a panel of students at our school's Ethics Symposium. What was interesting—for lack of a better term—to me was the response I got from students and parents: that they had experienced it too.

It's so difficult to determine where supportive friendship ends and toxic relationships begin.

The basic argument I made in my paper is that there comes a time when "talking it out" with a friend is not going to help them any further. If you are not licensed professional, chances are you are not going to improve their situation. If they are in a really bad place mentally or a threat to themselves, the most loving thing you can do for them is to help them find further help.

I'm definitely not saying that you shouldn't be supportive: the hardest times in a person's life are when they need good friends the most. What I am saying is that keeping a friend's consistently self-deprecating comments, thoughts of self harm, and even suicidal ideations a secret is never the right choice.

Not only does this put your friend in danger, it can be emotionally taxing to you, too.

Basic psychology dictates that these types of relationships quickly descend into a phenomenon called "codependency": The basic idea of this behavior is that one person, the benefactor, continuously "rescues" a needy individual due to an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the other. This creates a vicious cycle in which the benefactor both enables the needy individual's destructive behavior and they themselves become trapped in a toxic relationship—a relationship in which they are used, abused, or taken advantage of.

When an individual struggling with mental illness swears a friend to secrecy regarding potentially life-threatening information, it is extremely difficult to find the strength to breach that sense of trust for the sake of safety. It becomes even more difficult to do if, for example, that individual threatens suicide if that trust is broken.

You could argue that keeping that secret kept that friend alive.

This line of reasoning is faulty for a few reasons. Informing a family member or person of authority of the risk a mentally ill person poses to him or herself allows that figure to take preemptive protective action. Moreover, if an individual is truly suicidal, keeping their severe mental illness a secret for them as their friend does not guarantee that they will never harm themselves, but it does guarantee that they will never get better.

There are so many things you can offer to truly help a friend who needs it: go with them to their therapy appointments if they're too afraid to walk in alone. Help them do the dishes/clean their room when they feel too drained to do it themselves. Spend time with them, but set boundaries.

When a person extends a helping hand to a friend in need, the general expectation is that the friend will eventually let go and stand up on their own. When they offer a shoulder to cry on, it does not mean that the friend can take up permanent residency there.

Helping does not and should not have to hurt.

If you or a loved one is experiencing some of the issues described above, there are a number of resources you can access:

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Free online counselling:

Or check out your school's health resources—chances are that they can help you.

You are not alone.

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10 Struggles Girls Taller Than 5'7" Feel On A Spiritual Level

3. "Do you date guys that are shorter than you?"

Any girl who is at least 5'8" will understand these struggles and possibly identify with them on a spiritual level.

1. Dresses not being long enough

Finding dresses for any occasion that will be long enough is like searching for rain in a drought. And when you find one, it's bound to either cost $$$ or not fit another aspect of your body.

2. Heck, pants are never long enough either

You are constantly flooding, or else you rolled up your jeans to look like capris. Unless you special ordered some jeans online in the coveted size LONG or EXTRA LONG, this will forever be your fate.

3. "Do you date guys that are shorter than you?"

This is a personal preference people! Don't assume that a girl will or will not date someone just based on their height difference! Also, don't judge if they aren't interested in someone who is shorter than them!

4. Not wearing heels because you don't enjoy being the skyscraper of the friend group

Wearing heels can be fun buuuuuuuut sometimes towering over everyone else is not our idea of fun.

5. It's hard to find cute shoes that actually fit

You would love to have all those cute little shoes in the clearance section, but most of them barely cover your big toe.

6. Everyone thinks you walk too fast

Short-legged people just can't keep up with you, even though you aren't even walking fast. Like at all.

7. People want to jump on your back

Just because you're tall doesn't give them the license to make you into their personal camel.

8. Never being able to cross your legs underneath desks and tables

You. Can. Not. Get. Comfortable.

9. Awkward hugs

Some people will never understand.

10. Never knowing how to pose in pictures

Should you sorority squat? Pop the hip? Bend the leg? Contort your body to feel like a normal sized human? So hard to decide.

Cover Image Credit: Olivia Willoughby

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I Somehow Ended Up With The Best Three Roommates Ever

And I got really lucky.


With the first year of college over, I have a lot to reflect on. It feels like I've been in college forever, yet the year has gone by so quickly. A large part of my college experience was shaped by my roommates.

All four of us are very different people with very different interests and mindsets. We all brought something different to the table, and it created this beautiful blend that none of us will find anywhere else. Each of them has impacted me in a different way and I will forever be thankful for it.

So here's to the artsy one, whose hard work and dedication are inspirational. Sure, we've joked about her being holed up in the studio, but the art she creates is so different and so beautiful (go follow @crea.san on Instagram to marvel at her skill). A lot of people in college do the bare minimum to get a decent grade, but she went above and beyond everyone's expectations. All of her pieces had a story behind it.

Not only is she an amazing artist but she understood me in ways that no one else in college really did. As a fellow introvert, she could relate to my struggles of making conversation with people she didn't quite know yet and I could tell her about all the dumb things I did and thought without feeling judged at all. I can't even describe how much I needed that sometimes and how much it helped.

Then, of course, the dancer. We didn't click right away, and I didn't know how I felt about her initially. But she's so goofy and confident, she could win anyone over. We didn't really have many heart-to-hearts until the last week of school but there was a mutual understanding between us.

Surprisingly, we share a lot of similar interests, one of them being dance. She puts so much time and energy into practices and competitions, and it is admirable. There were times she would come back when everyone else was sleeping and she would still have school work to finish. It paid off though because she is an incredible dancer. The fact that she is going to be the captain next year should say it all. So thank you for reminding me to be passionate about things I care about and to put in my everything into it.

Last but definitely not least, the Mandir one. I already knew her from the Hindu Temple (Mandir) but only saw her once a week and in a particular setting. I wasn't sure what to expect outside of that setting. It was like getting to know her all over again, and it was important for us to get along because we were living in the same room together and if we didn't it would have affected our relationship at Mandir.

I quickly realized that we would be fine, but I underestimated how big of a role she would actually play. I could go back to the dorm at the end of the day and tell her anything and everything that happened that day. The fact that we went to the same Mandir turned out to be a good thing because she understood everything I was saying without me having to explain it. With every inside joke and dumb story, we got closer.

Then came the 36 questions. To deepen our friendship, we asked each other 36 questions that, according to psychology today, bring you close to someone. That was the first time we were emotionally vulnerable in front of each other and our complete honest thoughts came out. It was extremely enlightening and we really got to know each other that day.

She was always there for me; listened to every stupid epiphany, plan, story, and rant. She helped me after every questionable decision. I love her to death and I'm not exaggerating when I say she's like a sister.

These three amazing girls have forever changed my life. We may not all be living together next year, but I will always have a place in my heart for them. All of us will go on our own, separate, unique paths, and I'm going to be right there cheering them on.

So thank you Sana, Maya, and Charmi for every time we went out, every game we played, every deep conversation we had, show we watched, and the wonderful experience we had. I love you guys.

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