“It’s Saturday, all of my friends are going to be doing something fun tonight”
“I don’t want to put in the effort to get ready though..”
“I should go out… I should join them”
“Maybe they don’t want me to come though… maybe I would just bother them, be a downer”
“Socializing, and seeing my friends might make me feel better though”
“Or maybe it will just take too much energy”
Anxiety, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, an Eating Disorder or anything outside or in between; mental illness affects all aspects of an individual's life, especially their social life and the relationships they have with others.
Mental illness may make us question our own judgements, create assumptions around ideas that were never there in the first place, or even argue with ourselves internally.
Within a university, much of socialization includes drinking, and that being primarily binge drinking as it is imbedded in university culture. Binge drinking is defined as: the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time. Outside of a university setting, alcohol is still the fuel to the fire that often goes hand in hand with socialization. Although alcohol's biggest factor typically in a social setting, it is notable that often drugs can have similar affects on an individual as well. Alcohol itself is also classified as a depressant, and these affects can increase by the amount of alcohol consumed. So, as alcohol intake goes up in the body, depressant effects will also increase to. For someone battling mental illness, dealing with effects of consumption of a depressant is certainly not going to help with any symptoms the individual may already be battling. Many individuals battling mental illness also are prescribed medications, of which discourage alcohol consumption.
As much as a person battling mental illness is told they shouldn’t drink, and shouldn’t consume alcohol; alcohol also allows an individual to forget about their problems for a little while and escape, and might even let them connect with other people for once.
With binge drinking also usually comes hangovers, of which are entered around the previous night's behaviours. Symptoms of a hangover may include loss of sleep and fatigue, vomiting, headaches, muscle aches, and mood disturbances. And unfortunately for those of us battling mental illness, many of these are already symptoms we battle on a daily basis, so with the hangover comes amped up mental health issues, affecting both the mind and body. Some of the previous night's behaviours may be shameful and embarrassing as alcohol consumption usually induces such. These may propagate a new cycle of self-hatred and criticism that you were simply trying to escape from the night before.
With all of that being said, it isn’t impossible to socialize without alcohol, actually it’s encouraged, not only for individuals battling mental health concerns, but for everyone. Socialization helps a person build self confidence and capitalize on their life experiences further enhancing their overall well-being. And hey, who doesn’t want to get out and shake it off? Dancing is a great stress reliever and releases the happy endorphins!
To friends and family members of people battling mental illness:
the most important recommendation I have for you, is to not quit asking them to come out and socialize. Just because they continuously say no right now, doesn’t mean they won’t say yes in the future. Asking this person to join you on a night with friends, whether it be a 'friends night in', or a night out on the town, might be the one thing that that individual is being invited to, and may feel isolated and alone if you are not inviting them out - even if you think they won’t want to come or it’s for their benefit. Their anxiety may keep them from saying yes, it can be terrifying for an individual battling mental illness to be out in public at times. With that being said, be sure to respect their boundaries, and understand if they need to leave, or have anxiety around the idea of going out, this may be really stepping out of their comfort zone. A person battling mental illness may or may not know their boundaries, especially when it comes to socializing with or without alcohol use, just because they have made bad decisions in the past around socializing and binge drinking, doesn’t mean that you can’t help them learn and have a healthier social life in the future, that may or may not have drinking in it.
We have a long way to go with eliminating the stigma around mental illness. Don’t associate certain aspects of life, such as socializing, with activities that a person battling mental illness can or can’t do. These illnesses can be debilitating enough on their own. Being social, and connecting with individuals may be the one thing that can help a person, simply feel like a regular person again. And for those of us struggling with mental illness, pondering the idea of going out and having a social life, just do what makes you happy, don’t feel limited, held back, or restricted by your mental illness. You deserve to have a wonderful, enjoyable, social life.
Have a social and satisfying Saturday everyone!
Written by Campus Rep, Teagan Pringle
Edited by Executive Assistant, Addie Van Rijn