The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has fundamentally changed everyday life for everyone. The freedom of movement we used to take for granted is gone, thanks to province-wide lockdowns. The ability to meet face to face with friends, co-workers, and loved ones is gone.
“Loneliness is such a risk factor for your health,” said Illinois-based psychotherapist Richard Schwartz, speaking to TheHill.com. “This obviously has the effect of increasing that, especially for people who live alone, and more especially for people who live alone and are already lonely and who don’t have a lot of loved ones left.”
Fortunately, we are living in the most technologically advanced, most connected time in human history. Dozens of free video apps offer the opportunity for friends and caregivers to lend support, counseling, or even just a friendly face.
In a recent interview, Toronto-based clinical psychologist Dr. Katy Kamkar discussed the advantages of video chats during a time of lockdown and isolation.
“It helps to share our thoughts and feelings,” she told Global News. “Knowing that we are not alone and have quality social support has been found to help our mental health, adding positivity and healthy coping skills in our lives.”
Hans Henri Kluge, Europe’s regional director for the World Health Organization, told TheHill.com that a positive approach for friends and caregivers is to not only be supportive but also to validate feelings.
“The disruptive effects of COVID-19 provide us all with an opportunity: An opportunity to check on each other, to call and video-chat, to be mindful and sensitive to the unique mental health needs of those we care for. Our anxiety and fears should be acknowledged and not be ignored, but better understood and addressed by individuals, communities, and governments,” Kluge said.
Another way that friends and caregivers can help is to extol the virtues of solitude. Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin, co-authors of the book Lead Yourself First, define solitude as “a subjective state of mind in which the mind, isolated from input from other minds, works through a problem on its own.” Put another way, being alone does not have to mean feeling lonely, even for people dealing with mental health-related challenges.
Check in frequently by video chat. Listen. Validate feelings. Reassure them that while they might be by themselves physically, they are not alone. These are the steps you can take to ensure that the people you care for who are struggling with mental health challenges can continue to feel seen, heard, and supported.