RE: I'll Be There For You Why our friends are more important than ever
Best Health|October/November 2021
THE FRIENDSHIP FILES
Rebecca Gao

Friendships are, quite literally, life-saving. Studies show that people with strong social relationships increase their odds of survival by 50 percent. And the results hold regardless of the person’s age, gender, health status, and cause of death. Study after study shows that social connectedness not only generates emotional well-being, it has real physical benefits, too: it boosts our immune and cardiovascular systems, lowers the risk of depression and dementia and improves our stress responses and the quality of our sleep. ¶ These are across-the-board benefits; they don’t discriminate based on the sort of friendship you have. And friendship can look very different, as the women in these pages show—it might have developed in childhood or in an office cubicle; it can last generations or cross generations; it can be kept all in the family. ¶ Good friends are the antidote to the stresses of daily life, and the pandemic has made these relationships feel more important than ever. They deserve our attention and special care. After all, we get by with (more than) a little help from our friends.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Kiran Rai, Baljit Singh, Gagan Bassi, Rupi Kaur, Bali Bassi and Keerat Kaur (previous page)

In 2013, when visual artist Kiran Rai was a teenager living in Brampton, Ont., she became involved with an organization that created arts and cultural events for youth, by youth. It was there she met Baljit Singh, Gagan Bassi, Rupi Kaur, Bali Bassi, and Keerat Kaur, who is now her closest friends. “Anytime I saw a girl who was even remotely interested in creative stuff, I would push her artistically,” says Rai. The women, who have all pursued creative careers, can each remember a moment where Rai encouraged them to move beyond their comfort zone. “[Rai] sees versions of other people that they haven’t even stepped into yet,” says artist and architect Keerat Kaur.

Before poet Rupi Kaur was topping bestseller lists, having her work translated into 25 languages and starring in an Amazon Prime special, her biggest fans and supporters were these friends. Milk and Honey, the collection of poetry she self-published in 2014, was the groups’ first major collaboration together. They all hawked copies at events and Gagan Bassi stocked them at her clothing store. These days the women are separated by busy schedules, so they’ve migrated to FaceTime to discuss everything from family drama to upcoming projects.

ALWAYS ON CALL

Laura Rosella and Shalu Bains

When COVID-19 arrived in Canada, Shalu Bains, the Vice President of performance and business intelligence at Trillium Health Partners (which owns several hospitals in Mississauga, Ont.), knew her team needed to be well-informed. She reached out to Laura Rosella, an epidemiologist and the chair of Trillium’s research institute, for help.

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