Often clients tell me they’d like to make more friends, but don’t know how or where to meet new people. This is a skill you can work on, you can get better at it. Meeting new people isn’t always easy, and it can be nerve-wracking, but it’s worth it. Also, remember that many people feel nervous around meeting new people, not just people with a schizophrenia disorder.
Where to meet new people
The first step to meet new people is to go to places or join activities where you are likely to meet people that you have some things in common with. Some people meet new people at work or at a volunteer position, though you may have less time to talk about interests or to socialize at your work/volunteer job. If you aren’t working/volunteering or if you don’t have things in common with people there, here are some other ideas for places to meet others.
Often, if you have a certain interest or hobby (like old cars or reading or hiking), you can find a social group of people who have the same interest. This is helpful because you then have a built-in conversation topic, since you know the person is interested in the same activity as you are. If you have a computer with internet, you can look these up pretty easily. (If you don’t, go to your local library and use their computer for searching). For example, you could Google “classic car festival in Minneapolis” you’ll find several helpful links with websites that list dates and locations of these festivals. You can also join MeetUp, which is a free website that lists a huge number of social group by location and interest. MeetUp usually doesn’t have any fees or obligation to go if you join and then change your mind.
If you go to church, churches often have social or special-interest groups that meet regularly. There are also lots of volunteer opportunities at most churches, though some are social and others are not.
If you have some extra cash, you could take a class. One type of class would be a Community Education class (which is listed online by county) such as woodworking or learning new computer skills. Another type is a class held at a retail store, like a cooking class at a kitchen store or a craft class at a craft store like Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics. There are also classes offered by drop-in centers and other programs (like Artability and SEED classes in St. Paul and Spectrum ArtWorks in Minneapolis).
Finally, sometimes people meet others that they get along with in support groups for people with mental illness, like those through NAMI, or though a local mental health clinic. The advantage of these groups is that the people in the group already understand what mental illness is. They may have had some similar experiences and will understand what you’re going through.
Once you’ve gone to an event to meet new people, the next challenge is how to get to know them and become friends if you get along. This will be addressed in Meeting New People, Part 2.