By now, many people have accepted social distancing and isolation as part of daily life. But this still may impact your behavioral health. Many of us feel grief due to job loss, lack of connections with family members or our church group, and lack of access to regular healthcare. Humans are social by nature and spending too much time alone can make us more sad or anxious. During this time, people with behavioral health conditions may feel an increase in symptoms, and those who previously felt fine might start to develop problems.
The stress caused by this necessary social isolation may be creating the unintended consequence of increasing suicide in the general population. Unfortunately, suicide rates have been steadily increasing over the past two decades, so healthcare providers fear an additional increase may occur during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has found that loneliness and isolation were associated with both attempted and completed suicides.
Here are some ways to prevent loneliness and isolation.
- Spend more time with your family. Many of us have more free time available during the pandemic. Make family time a priority. If necessary, use masks and social distancing, but enhance family connection by taking advantage of extra time you or family may have.
- Maintain social connections through technology. Communications through online programs or via phone on a regular basis improve connections and decrease loneliness.
- Structure every single day. Have a schedule and a plan for the day and follow it.
- Maintain physical and mental activities. Exercise has benefits for physical and behavioral health.
- Pursue outdoor activities while following the guidance of social distancing. Brief outdoor activities are usually still possible and beneficial to your health. You can feel much better after some sunlight and exposure to the outdoors.
- Get accurate health information from reputable sources. For health information about COVID-19, please contact the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov, your local healthcare provider, or your local 211 and 311 services, if available.
- Manage cognition, emotion, and mood. Conscious breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques are helpful for the mind and body and can decrease someone’s levels of anxiety and depression.
- Set a limit on media consumption, including national and local news.
- Pay attention to behavioral health symptoms. The pandemic is stressful for everyone and significant stress can prompt the occurrence or recurrence of behavioral health conditions in some people. Professional assistance should be sought, especially if someone is experiencing suicidal ideation. If you feel like you or a family needs emotional support or professional assistance, a Mindful Advocate is just a phone call away and available 24/7 for Blue KC members. To talk with a Mindful Advocate, call 833-302-MIND (6463). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also provides 24/7 support at 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
No matter how hopeless or isolated you are feeling, know that you are not alone. Remember, connections to family, friends, co-workers, or your church family can support you. And talking about your feelings of disconnectedness as a part of your life right now will help others realize they are not alone either.
To learn more, visit: Blue KC Suicide Prevention & Awareness
Journal of International Psychogeriatrics. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306546/