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Check on Your Strong Friends

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Check on your strong friends, a phrase many people use, but let's discuss what this phrase implies. When one says, check on your strong friend, it implies that a group of people are weak and another is stronger. Individuals who appear "strong" to their friends and family should not be viewed as a badge of honor. Those who seem to handle the most challenging times are often responding to past traumas. One has experienced a trauma in their past and closed themselves off emotionally to survive the circumstance. This becomes a learned behavior that is not always healthy. However, when this label of being strong is placed on one, they begin to believe consciously and unconsciously that there are not allowed to express themselves emotionally because doing so has been perceived as they are not allowed to express themselves emotionally because doing so has been perceived as being weak. We all have varying levels of resilience based on our previous life experiences. Strong friends allow themselves to be transparent, genuine, and authentic with themselves and others. No award is given to the person who can handle the most challenging times. We all need to learn healthy coping skills to manage obstacles and adversity in life. Anxiety and depression do not have a particular face, and no one is exempt. Many of you may have missed being diagnosed. It is the thought that people are really sad, won't get out of bed, and sitting in a dark house. At the same time, these things can be characteristics of one who is depressed.

Depression can also look like a person always laughing, joking, and entertaining others. They have mastered putting on a show, so others won't know they are depressed. The person who appears quick-tempered, well, this very well can be deeper than this individual not having anger management skills. Depression and anxiety can look very different in different people. Each of us will deal with internal battles at some point or another. So instead of checking on your "strong" friends. Check on all of your friends and family. We need to normalize creating a safe space for those most important to us. This means without judgment. It is just as important to be concerned with the friend who always seems to have it together and the one who always seems to have their world falling apart. Individuals who appear strong and capable on the outside may be struggling internally. Refrain from giving a generic response of, I'm fine; I'm ok; or I'm good in response to being asked, how are you doing? Although this is often used as a greeting. Let's be genuinely concerned about friends and family's well-being. Let's be in a space where we can respond truthfully. We all have breaking points, so addressing our mental and physical health is important. Stop trying to appear strong. The strong person is the person who recognizes there is a need to reach out for help. It takes bravery to allow themselves to be vulnerable ( I mean, I KNOW we can be judgmental people). But does something have to be wrong for one to seek mental health services? Absolutely not!

One may have found the tools that help them navigate life, but there is nothing wrong with talking with a trained professional to help hold them accountable, offer a different perspective, or help lighten the load. In our community specifically, it is communicated to our young men, whether through verbal or nonverbal communication, that acknowledging or expressing their feelings is not ok. These young men grow into adults, get into relationships, don't show emotion, express their feelings, and communicate poorly. It is projected on our young ladies to be "Boss Babes" (not the B we usually hear here), the "Baddest B," or "Miss Independent." These terms imply that we must carry our load, the load of the children, family, husbands, hell, and the community, while being a wife, mother, scholar, and professional. Let us remember black doesn't crack, but it will break. We are some beautiful creatures, but what do we look like inside? We are broken, we are hurting, and we are sick. Some of our physical ailments are a result of being strong!

Here are a few suggestions for supporting your friends:

Initiate conversations: Reach out to your friends and tell them you're there for them. Ask how they are doing and be genuinely interested in their well-being. Let them know that you are available to listen without judgment.

Create a safe space: Make it clear to your friend that they can open up to you without fear of being stigmatized or dismissed. Instead, be understanding and empathetic, providing a non-judgmental environment for them to share their thoughts and feelings.

Educate yourself: Take the time to learn about mental health issues, particularly those commonly affecting the African American community. Understanding the unique challenges they may face can help you provide better support.

Encourage professional help: Suggest that your friend seek professional assistance. Mental health professionals can offer the appropriate guidance, therapy, or medication. Offer to help them research therapists or accompany them to appointments if they're comfortable with it.

Stay connected: Regularly check in with your friend, even if they seem to be doing well. Consistent communication shows that you genuinely care about their well-being and are there for them in the long run.

Encourage self-care: Remind your friend about the importance of self-care activities, such as exercise, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and engaging in hobbies they enjoy. In addition, please encourage them to prioritize their mental and emotional well-being.

Offer resources: Share mental health resources, helplines, or support groups that may benefit your friend. Numerous organizations and hotlines are dedicated to assisting individuals with mental health concerns, and they can provide valuable information and support.

by: Tandrea S. Elmore, EdD, LPC, NCC


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