Coping with Social Isolation during a Pandemic

Coping with Social Isolation during a Pandemic

When things get difficult, it’s only natural to turn to friends and family for comfort and advice. The worse things get, the more we need their love and companionship. Unfortunately, as we suffer the difficulties and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, spending physical time with our loved ones is more difficult than ever. The very people we need to support us are the same people we are supposed to avoid.

Even the loss of superficial relationships can weigh on us. We can miss the simple pleasure of a human interaction with clerks, hairdressers, waiters and waitresses, etc. We don’t always have to know people well to enjoy being around them.

There isn’t much we can do about the general decrease in human interaction that most of us are suffering. With so many restrictions, we simply can’t do what we used to do…at least for now.

However, we can do some things differently. It’s possible to still visit in person, as long as we keep our distance. With warmer weather, we can spend time outdoors with those we love, keeping our six feet apart at a picnic or a walk. We can use apps to spend time together online, face to face, yet apart. Scheduling calls and digital visits with one another helps remind us that we aren’t alone, and that our loved ones still love us, and we still love them. We may be physically alone, but it truly is only physical.

For some people, however, the pain of social distancing is more intense and less easily managed. Avoiding other people, even for the sake of our health, can cause intense feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression, including suicidal ideation. People with a history of trauma or abuse, alcohol or substance disorders, mental illness or suicidal ideation, are particularly at risk.

Another factor that can contribute to suicidal ideation is a recent job loss or financial setback. Unfortunately, this is extremely widespread at the moment. When speaking with friends and family, it’s important to listen closely when they express negative thoughts. The following conditions, as given by Suicide Prevention Lifeline, may indicate the need for professional counseling or intervention:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

If you notice these signs and symptoms in someone you know, encourage them to seek help. You can also give them the number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or, if they prefer to text, they can text the word “HOME” to 741741.

Fortunately, one of the results of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the recent implementation of remote visits to healthcare providers, both for physical and mental health. At Rush Memorial Hospital, Social Worker Cheryl Turner-Romans offers counseling through RMH Video Visits. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 765-932-7591.