Happy International Friendship Day !

Friends are a very important element for our happiness and well being, that is why in this very special post, the walkalong team had the chance to talk with Jocelyn Chai and Jollee Fung about the importance of their friendship for their mental health.


For how long have you been friends?

11 years through high school, university and now medical school


How did you meet?

We met in grade 8 through the french immersion program at our high school.


What is the best thing your best friend has ever done for you?

JC: The year of applying for medical school was probably the toughest year I've had so far emotionally. There were so many ups and downs, stressors, uncertainties, and fears that were hard to deal with alone. That year, Jo helped me immensely because we were going through the same process and understood exactly how each other were feeling. We would talk in depth about all of these emotions and Jo would always make me feel less stressed and anxious after those talks. It's amazing that we got in the same year and we were able to share this experience through med school together again.


JF: I can’t begin to express how important Joce is to me in my life. She’s been there with me through my ups and downs since high school, through university, and now to share this journey of medical training to her means so much to me because I know it’s okay to tell her that I am struggling. I remember one especially hard moment for me. When I found out that a childhood friend’s sister died by suicide, the weekend before medical school started. I couldn’t fathom how that could be. How a sister whom I saw as my own slipped through my life like that. And to begin medical school where we are learning to heal; it was one of the most painful moments of my life. I am grateful that Joce was by my side during that time and to not only be with me but to share my sorrow as well. This genuine empathy, is the best thing Joce has done for me and will do for her future patients. Her simple presence and willingness to listen is all that I wish for - and have gotten!


What does your friendship mean for your mental health?

JC: It means a lot to me knowing that whenever I need, I will always have Jo to talk to about anything. Especially going through med school, having someone so close who understands exactly what you're going through is paramount for my mental health and it keeps me sane.


JF: Our friendship means more than I can imagine for my mental health. With Joce in the medical field as well and us going through this journey together, having someone to check in with and to share the struggles is incredibly important and essential to my mental health. It is important to know that we are not alone in this. We are in it to fight together.


How often do you rely on your friend when you have trouble with something?

JC: I rely on Jo whenever there's something that's bothering me that I feel is beyond what I can handle alone. Usually, I like to address my stressors and problems by mentally listing the out and doing at least one thing to minimize that stressor. Then, if that doesn't work and it's often the case, I like to talk to Jo because she gives a completely different outlook on many of my problems, in large part due to the differences between our personalities. Jo relies more on emotions whereas I rely more on logic.


JF: I go to Joce whenever I have trouble thinking through and working through some problems in my life. Whether that be personal relationship problems or academic stress, I rely on Joce to help me give another perspective to the situation, often a more rational and logical one, to allow me to see the bigger picture while also validating my emotional experiences.


How do(would) you support your friend when he/she has a problem?

JC: I like to listen intently allowing her to talk and asking questions for her elaborate on their problem, which can be very cathartic by itself. Analyzing the problem together and understanding what it is exactly about this problem that bothers her is important. I also sometimes like to give my perspective on the problem, while recognizing that sometimes problems may be unsolvable and just need time.


JF: Being there for her, and to listen to her give her perspective of the problem. Validate her emotions, what they are going through because that is the reality for them in that moment. Then offer to give my perspective of what the situation is and possible solutions to the problem. Sometimes though, it’s important to recognize that there isn’t a solution, and that’s when I can only stand by her and support her.


What advice would you tell someone who has a friend struggling with his/her mental health?

JC: It's important to recognize the severity of the problem but at the same time, not to overemphasize it and let it engulf your relationship with them. It can be challenging at times to see your friend succumb to their mental health but even more rewarding when they have periods of clarity or when they overcome it. A simple "how are you doing?" can make the world of difference.


JF: Offer to talk. Take the burden of “reaching out” off your friend who is struggling by placing it in your own hands. Invite them for a walk or a coffee. The very act of going out can be a positive impact in your friend’s life. Then when they are ready to talk about it, listen with your maximum attention and focus. Listen with empathy. Listen without judgement or with the intent of responding with the best advice ever. You don’t have to offer advice; sometimes another human being’s presence and invitation to listen is all that is needed.


It is true that friends play a significant role in promoting our overall health, but it's not always easy to build or maintain friendships. Remember, it's never too late to build new friendships or reconnect with old friends, it just takes effort. Whatever your situation is remember we are here for you to talk about it.