IU Health Experts Emphasize the Impact of Friendship on Mental Health

Staff report

Bloomington, Ind. – July 27, 2023

As National Friendship Day approaches on Sunday, July 30, IU Health Behavioral Health experts are coming together to shed light on the significant role of social interactions and friendship in maintaining good mental health, according to a press release from IU Health.

Annie Cheek, LCSW, Drew Heckman, PhD, and Dayana Ferrera, LMHC, are providing valuable insights into the importance of fostering meaningful connections with others.

Recognizing the intrinsic nature of human beings as social creatures, Dr. Heckman remarks, “Loneliness is a powerful emotion that urges us to seek connections with others. It serves as a natural motivation for forming and nurturing relationships.”

Ferrera further explains, “The absence of social support and a sense of community can contribute to feelings of depression, leading individuals to isolate themselves from others. Studies consistently show that having at least one supportive person in our lives can have a profoundly positive impact on our mental well-being.”

Cheek adds to the conversation, highlighting the correlation between loneliness and substance abuse, stating, “In my experience, loneliness often drives individuals toward substance use and other addictive behaviors. When people feel disconnected from others and the world around them, they may attempt to find solace in substances or other harmful coping mechanisms.”

For many adults, forming new friendships can be a daunting task. To address this challenge, the IU Health experts offer some practical tips, including:

  • Building friendships at work
  • Joining groups, classes, or clubs to meet like-minded individuals
  • Seeking out locations where people share similar interests, such as church, the gym, in-person gaming centers, or yoga studios
  • Engaging with other dog owners at the dog park
  • Attending free community events to connect with others
  • For those dealing with anxiety, exploring support groups with others who face similar challenges

“It’s perfectly normal to start by simply being around others without the expectation of immediate friendship,” advises Ferrera. “Being open to interacting with and getting to know others can serve as valuable practice for stepping out of your comfort zone and honing interpersonal skills.”

For those interested in delving deeper into the topic, a full Q&A session with these IU Health experts is available at https://iuhealth.org/thrive/friendship-and-mental-health.

As we celebrate National Friendship Day, let us be reminded of the significance of genuine connections in safeguarding our mental well-being. Embracing the spirit of camaraderie and cultivating meaningful friendships can pave the way for a healthier and happier life.

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