Geeks Vs Loneliness special: International Friendship Day

It’s International Friendship Day so in this GVL special, CALM ambassador Aaron Gillies writes about reaching out to mates

Today is International Friendship Day and as part of this, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) in partnership with TV channel Dave is taking over an ad break to share stories from comedians about friendship, encouraging people to check in with their mates. We’ve asked Aaron Gillies, the voice of Dave social and CALM ambassador, to write us a guest editorial about friendship, mental health and what his mates have meant to him. Over to you Aaron…

Friendship is a simple concept really. A friend is a person who doesn’t hate spending time around you. Being friends with someone who has a mental health disorder can be difficult though, the mood swings, the hurt, the feeling of helplessness. You’re spending time with someone who finds it difficult to live inside their own skin, so of course the emotions will be high, their pain quickly becomes yours, because you care. Mental health problems are inherently selfish, because when you spend all your time hating yourself it can be so very difficult to focus on anything else. 

I’m writing this as someone who has lost friendships due to their own mental health, and as someone who has gained friendships as a side effect of their mental health. On a day to day basis, I don’t have many friends, I have colleagues, I have people who live in apps on my phone, but I don’t have many friends. A factor of this is of course that as you get older, you get busier, you want time by yourself, you want space, but it is also a result of my own actions. I would like to blame my schedule, but sometimes it’s the fact that I can’t face meeting people, I don’t want to bother anyone with my presence, I don’t want to hurt anyone else because I am around. This is how my mind works. 

When a friend is going through a hard time it can be so easy to feel helpless, to feel lost, to feel like you just want to shake them and scream “I love you” or “I’m here, I’ll always be here, you twat!” but sometimes the simplest things can be the best way of showing you care. I tell this story a lot, but only because it meant so much to me, and not to oversell it, saved me when I was going through a particularly bad time in my life. I was sat on my sofa, as I had been for the four days previous. The TV could have been on static for the amount of attention I was paying to it. The floor was littered with empty spirit bottles and cigarette ends. I hadn’t eaten. My phone had died as I just stared at the ceiling, unfeeling, occasionally passing out due to lack of sleep. I heard the doorbell ring and waited for whoever it was to go away and leave me alone. They persisted in ringing the bell so I got up and answered. It was a takeaway driver with a Chinese meal. He handed it to me and left without a word. A friend had sent me the meal to make sure I was eating and had asked the delivery driver to simply make sure I was there. Knowing someone out there actually gave a shit made everything feel more grounded, it helped my perspective.

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I’ve had the same four friends since I was 13. That’s 19 years of friendship with four weirdos I met at high school. We meet when we can, which due to adulthood and responsibilities isn’t as much as any of us would like, but when we do meet, it’s like no time has passed at all. We sit and talk about life, the universe and everything. They’ve seen the best of me and the worst of me. They were there on my wedding day and they were there to pick me up after breakdowns. Friendship doesn’t need to be constant communication, they don’t need to text you every five minutes or take you on holiday, just them being there, at the other end of a phone call or a direct message, can be enough to know you aren’t alone. Friendship is unique and weird, but there is never any harm in letting your friends know that you care, that you are there for them. Regardless of how much time you spend together, or how often you see each other, a friend is a friend, and knowing people are out there who care about you can be invaluable when you are going through a tough time.

As part of Dave’s partnership with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), we’ve brought this message to life in the latest phase of our long-running ‘Be the mate you’d want’ campaign, which champions the importance of friendships and how just checking in on a mate can be one of the best things you can do if they are struggling. To celebrate International Friendship Day on Tuesday 30th July, instead of adverts and TV trailers, Dave will air a four-minute animated ad takeover at 9.12pm during Taskmaster, featuring funny anecdotes about friendship from top comics including Lou Sanders, Natasia Demetriou, Alex Horne and Phil Wang. Suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK and the aim of the ad takeover is to encourage people to do something to show a mate that they’re there for them.  Just knowing that someone is there, that someone cares, can be one of the most important things in the world. It makes you feel less alone, less isolated, and just lets you know that you are wanted.