Cynthia L. Eppley, MA
Social distancing and Mental health
Social distancing has taken its toll on us in many ways. I’ve already written on this in my blogs on Loss and Grief.Loss in a Pandemic,Social Distancing,Grief 101Children Anxiety and Corona
But there is so much more to this topic.
There is a real fear of the economic impact on people. Nationally, and even internationally, businesses are scrambling to stay afloat. The enormous impact on these people is staggering. In one case in TX, Shelley Luther opened up her beauty salon and was arrested. Her reasoning? ”I have to feed my family.”
This is by no means a political statement. Certainly we can understand and empathize with her concerns.
As time goes on, the numbers go up. But this can feed the anxiety, wondering if I may be the next one. Did I wash my hands enough? Did I wipe down the groceries? Did I pick up an item that someone else touched? How can I know for sure? How can I be certain?
Time Marches On
While many areas are opening up, or loosening guidelines and restrictions, some are still firmly in place. We live in Montgomery County, PA—the “hotspot” of PA. We watch as other counties are going from red to yellow. And we continue to wait. We will probably be the last county to open up, excluding Philadelphia.
And we already canceled a long awaited trip to Europe in August. It will be rescheduled in 2022. But who knows what our plans will be at that point?
The uncertainty of all of this weighs on us. This adds to the stress that we all feel.
We may easily underestimate the connections we have in our social network. My husband has struck up a friendship at our local WaWa. The clerk is friendly and congenial; my husband likes the coffee as well as the fellowship.
We have lost the connection of our colleagues. Fortunately, we do see our neighbors. Internationally, the ability to go out of our homes has been restricted. In Spain, our daughter and family had specific days and hours that they could be outside.
We might look to Facetime, or Zoom or other platforms to connect with other people. But these “virtual” connections may not be enough. It might not be the support we need.
There is a physical aspect of connection that cannot be underestimated.
Lack of connection can result in loneliness, and may result in depression, increased suicide risk, stress, anxiety and alcohol use. In some cases, there may be increased domestic violence, and lack of nutrition.
Consider how this impacts children:
“To understand how the virus may affect children during these formative years, Schwehm said we might be able to look at the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for answers.
“We’ve seen the effects something like 9/11 had on children, with increased rates of behavioral problems and depression in children in New York City,” he said. “This might be especially true for children whose parents are serving as essential workers: medical staff, grocery store workers.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5314935/
I have a friend who has an aunt in a nursing home. Her observations:
“She will be 104 June 3rd if she makes it. She is totally with it mentally and lives for her visits from family. Between all of us she usually has a steady stream of visitors – her daughter, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. She is literally dieing of loneliness. Not eating, lost 15 lbs. It is breaking my heart.”
“This hits home with me! My momma died from failure to thrive. I am not bitter about it but I am just saying what is true! I am relieved every day that she is home with Jesus. I know she knows how much we all loved her and when she got to heaven she truly knew then what horrible thing happened to her down here on earth. Someday there will be no more tears and no more sadness. There will be no more evil. But until that day I just press on.
“It’s like torture for the families. If covid doesn’t kill them, they’ll die from loneliness. And we have no control of it.”
Brad Hunstable, Aledo TX, released a video describing the death of his 12 yr old son Hayden Bradley Hunstable, 3 days before his 13th birthday. Hayden took his own life on April 17, 2020. Hunstable describes his son’s death as being caused by COVID, but not in the usual way. The social isolation his son felt was too much for him.
We are longing for that connection, aren’t we? I saw a video of a family in Canada that visited Grandmom with sheets of plastic, hung on the clothesline. They created arms. Then invited Grandmom in for a full hug, plastic and all between them. Others wore dinosaur costumes. Perhaps it was second best? But it worked.
We are all looking for that human connection. More in another blog.