J. Lee Grady on In This Time of Social Distancing, Call Your Friends

I have a friend in Virginia—I’ll call him “Kevin”—who is struggling with depression. He lost his job because his company isn’t an “essential” business. A part-time pastor, Kevin had big dreams about growing his young church, but now he’s struggling to connect with his congregation through social media and online broadcasts.

Another friend in Texas, “Mike,” is dealing with overwhelming anxiety. Daily news reports about infections and death tolls keep him up at night. This past weekend, he couldn’t sleep because he was afraid he might be getting a fever. His temperature is normal, but his worries are making him sick.

Meanwhile I’ve received too many messages to count from foreign friends who don’t know where their next meal will come from. In Uganda, police are beating people with canes if they go into the streets. In India, where there are only 9,100 confirmed cases of the virus in a nation of one billion, countless people are out of work because the government has put the whole country on lockdown.

I understand the drastic measures. Social distancing has proven to be a helpful strategy to reduce the spread of the virus. But health officials aren’t talking enough about the psychological toll this crisis is having on people who are forced to stay at home. It almost seems the “cure” for the coronavirus is worse than the disease itself.

More than 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past four weeks. But those mind-boggling numbers don’t begin to reveal the emotional impact of closed restaurants and stores, shuttered factories and padlocked schools.

Counselors say the number of calls to suicide hotlines has skyrocketed since the virus crisis began. Many of the calls are from young people who can’t handle the fact that normal life has been canceled.

“It’s so scary, it’s almost like … I would rather be dead,” said Danielle Sinay, a 28-year-old writer from Brooklyn, New York, who has a history of suicidal thoughts. “I mean, I wouldn’t be, but sometimes I get so scared it feels like that.”

Sinay told USA Today last month that the disruptions in her routine and the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic have triggered previous problems with panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. She is not alone. People with preexisting mental problems are particularly vulnerable to thoughts of suicide.

The coronavirus has created a perfect storm. It requires us to live in isolation to stay healthy—but the isolation causes a new set of problems. The last thing a person with depression or anxiety disorder should do is hide in a house alone. Yet 28% of households in the United States are single people who live by themselves.

So I’m sending out a plea. While you are diligent to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer and stay 6 feet away from strangers in the grocery store, please make every effort to check on your friends, family and neighbors to make sure they are coping with the emotional effects of this pandemic. Make phone calls or send texts and make sure people know you are there to help them if they need support. And schedule longer calls with people who are struggling with anxiety or depression.

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SOURCE: Charisma News