Social Interactions May Be Key To Mental Health

by EllaMai Queen

Have you ever wondered why your mental health worsens when you isolate yourself? 

As humans, we are very social beings. Whether we are spending time with our family or going on a walk with our friends, these can all be positive interactions we need.

“Positive interactions are significantly important to individuals overall,” Cheryl Delk,  the coordinator for the Youth Mental Health Program at Mental Health Association, Oklahoma said. “It increases the way we view ourselves, the way we feel about ourselves. And it allows us to build a safety zone with individuals that we can talk to.” 

As someone who struggles with mental health myself, Delk’s words felt personal. I’ve had times where I was impacted greatly by the kind words of others. 

So, when we have these positive interactions, it not only helps our mental health but also the lens we see ourselves with. By taking that step and interacting with those around us, it truly makes a big difference. Though, for most, it’s hard to put ourselves into situations where we can socialize and carry on meaningful conversations, especially if we’re introverted or in a bad mindset.

That’s why Delk encourages participation in any activities whether they be at school, a religious organization or elsewhere.

It’s the open door, right? You’re not really having to do the initial work if you’re not really comfortable doing that,” Delk said.

If you’re introverted, you’re still human and need these interactions to live healthy. So, join that club at school or help out in a food drive at your church. Find something in your life that you can be passionate about and build these important friendships from. 

Personally, the journalism network at my school has been an amazing lifeline for me. I’ve had the opportunity to make friends and share my ideas with people who share the same interests. 

“If you join a group, you’ve taken the first step to a door that’s already open, and you’re with like-minded individuals,” Delk said. “So you develop that foundation of this, we have the same interests, and then you let your barriers down and you’re not so guarded.”

This advice is important. If your mental state is bad, trust is something you’re going to struggle with. By creating these connections where you share the same interest or you’re both in the same club, it creates a situation where a bond is likely to be built. 

Delk also recommended having a trusted adult you can share things with in your life. As youth, we need these connections in our life. We need to find an adult who can be there and listen to our issues and possibly get us help if needed. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to have help and a trusted adult all-in-one. Andi Parker, my therapist, has truly made an impact on my mental state and continues to daily. She has encouraged me in multiple ways to view myself in a better light and get these social interactions that are so important for our mental health. 

Growing up is hard, and if you’re struggling with mental health problems, it can be significantly worse. By creating these positive interactions and having these adults in our lives, we are setting ourselves up to succeed. 

“I think overall that your generation has been amazing, right?” Delk shared. “Because you guys have stepped up, and you’ve said we need to talk about how we’re feeling and it’s okay to be having not so good days, right?” 

When we’re having these ‘bad’ days, it’s terribly important to share them. Reducing the stigma around mental health and not being ‘okay’ is fundamental to human existence. It is arguably just as important as socializing during our ‘bad’ days. 

Delk shared some of her favorite resources with me. 

The Crisis Text Line (741741) is one of them, where all you need to do is send ‘text’ to the hotline. 

“I know that a lot of times it’s hard to open up and talk about how we’re feeling or what we’re experiencing, but texting kind of helps keep that buffer for some individuals,” Delk said.  

There is also the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. It is nationwide, and you can call or text if needed. They will find someone in your area to talk to about your concerns or what you’re dealing with. 

In Tulsa, there is 211, and in Oklahoma City there’s Heartline. Both are amazing for finding mental health resources. 

The Mental Health Association, Oklahoma, also has an assistance center, 918-585-1213.

All of these resources are amazing if you need them. They are usable if you’re struggling at all. They are not just for a crisis, which is why it is so crucial if you’re going through anything mentally to contact one of these numbers. 

So, having positive social interactions and opening up about our mental health can be worthwhile, not only for ourselves but for anyone around us. I recommend taking Delk’s advice and saving these resources in our phone or carrying them with us for when we need to reach out to someone.

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