By Brandy Browne
Increased guidelines for social distancing in order to mitigate potential spread of super virus COVID 19 has contributed to the development of another dangerous pandemic: loneliness. “In the long term, social isolation may well impose increased mortality risks on society’s most at-risk population for mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as from COVID 19” (Douglas, 2020, retrieved from https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/general-psychiatry/costs-of-social-isolation-loneliness-covid19/). Our senior population has been hit especially hard with loneliness and depression. In 2019, 34% of adults aged 50 to 80 years of age reported feeling alone. However, in 2020, during the global pandemic, that number jumped to 42 to 60%. Seniors living in nursing homes and assisted care facilities are reportedly going for weeks (even months at times) without seeing the people in their support system. Speaking from personal experience, my father experienced a debilitating stroke in June of 2020 that we are still dealing with repercussions from. During that time, he was hospitalized in three different facilities where I was either unable to visit at all or very restricted in my ability to visit per safety guidelines. His mental health took a hard hit as he was going through life altering circumstances on his own.
We all need each other more than ever right now. I consider myself to be introverted, but I notice my own mental health declines when I am unable to see my friends and family for an extended time. There are ways to ensure social interaction in a safe manner, however. Try the following when you feel the need for social interaction, and watch your mental health improve.
- Take it outside. It is much easier to social distance outside. Physical activity of some kind is a wonderful way to release endorphins and improve mental health.
- When you can’t be in person, face time or video chat is a convenient option to visit with those at risk. My father prefers to live independently. Though it worries me at times, I check on him via video chat every day.
- Utilize online support groups. While in person support is preferred, even receiving support online is beneficial. Finding a place to vent frustrations and concerns can be a great source of relief.
- Most things that we enjoy are not cancelled. Things just look different right now. I may not be able to enjoy running a 5k with a large group of people, BUT I can enjoy daily runs with my running partner safely social distanced.
Most of all, take care to ensure that our at risk population is properly cared for during this difficult time. Call your parents. Call those children you worry about when you leave your classroom for the day (maybe not applicable to everyone, but I am a teacher and worry about the students I cannot see right now). Reach out to those loved ones and check on their mental health. Most of all, remember that nothing in life lasts forever. This too shall eventually pass. Just take care to protect our vulnerable members of society in the meantime.
Douglas, Y. (2020). The costs of social isolation: loneliness and COVID 19. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/general-psychiatry/costs-of-social-isolation-loneliness-covid19/