Posts tagged ‘Isolation’

Loneliness and Depression in a Time of COVID-19

Credit: Jeswin Thomas / Pexels.com

More and more research indicates that COVID-19 is affecting not only our physical health, but our mental health as well. David Kinnaman, who is the president of the Barna Group – a Christian research organization – outlined some of his organization’s latest research on just how lonely people have become because of the isolated situations in which so many of us find ourselves. He writes:

In a snapshot poll we took during the pandemic, we found that half of adults said they experience loneliness at least weekly. One third of adults (32%) say that loneliness affects their most important relationships.

As disturbing as a statistic like this may be, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The pandemic is creating and heightening all sorts of mental health struggles. In another statistic, David notes that 39% of people say they have become so depressed that their depression is destroying their relationships.

Speaking of depression, in an article for The Player’s Tribune, Kevin Love, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, opened up about his personal struggle with the disease. The whole article is worth reading, but Kevin’s explanation of how he tried to achieve his way out of depression is especially striking:

Everybody who goes through mental health issues has a unique story, but for me (and I think this is probably true for a lot of people), my entire identity was tied to one thing in a really unhealthy way. Way before I was in the NBA or even in college, my self-worth was all about performing. I was what I did, which I think a lot of people can relate to, whether they’re a chef or a lawyer or a nurse or whatever the profession. I just happened to play basketball. 

When I wasn’t performing, I didn’t feel like I was succeeding as a person. 

I didn’t really know how to be comfortable in my own skin. I could never just be unapologetically Kevin, walking into a room. I was never in the moment, alive. It was always the next thing, the next game, the next, next, next. It was like I was trying to achieve my way out of depression.

Kevin goes on to write about how, years earlier, he had broken his wrist twice and was not able to “achieve” like he wanted to and what he wanted to in basketball. His depression became overwhelming for him:

The future started to feel meaningless. And when it gets to the point where you lose hope, that’s when the only thing you can think about is, “How can I make this pain go away?”

I don’t think I have to say much more than that. 

If it hadn’t been for a couple of my closest friends, I don’t know if I would be here today telling my story. And 99.9% of the people in my life probably don’t know how bad it got for me. But as hard as that might be for them to hear, I feel like I need to get that off my chest for the people out there who might be in a similar situation right now …

All I can say to you is this: 

Talk to somebody. 

You would be amazed at how freeing it is just to talk to somebody, and tell them the truth about what you’re going through. 

And listen, I’m not trying to sell you some fairy-tale version of mental health. It took me years and years – hell, it genuinely took 29 years for me to realize what I needed. 

I needed medication. I needed therapy. 

I still need those things now, and I probably always will. 

This is incredible insight. And it goes to the heart of why David Kinnaman’s statistic on loneliness is so sinister. Loneliness cannot win if we’re going to be okay. Isolation cannot carry the day. We need each other. We need to talk to each other. And we need to be there for each other. This does not mean that we disregard protocols to protect our physical health against a serious virus. Social distancing, masks, handwashing, and avoiding large gatherings are still wise ideas. But none of these protocols need prevent us from picking up a phone and talking to each other, or FaceTiming with each other. None of these protocols need stall us in seeking professional help. None of these protocols need stop us from loving each other.

If you’re struggling right now, listen to Kevin Love:

Talk to somebody.

You’ll be glad you did. And they’ll be glad you did, too. Because they love you.

September 28, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Deadliness of Loneliness

Loneliness is killing us – literally.  This is what a lengthy article in the National Post argues:

Studies suggest loneliness is more detrimental to health than obesity, physical inactivity or polluted air. Chronic loneliness, and not the transient kind that comes with a significant life disruption, such as moving cities for work, or the death of a partner, has been linked with an increased risk of developing or dying from coronary artery disease, stroke, elevated blood pressure, dementia and depressed immunity.

 A study published in May found lonely people have shorter telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes, like the tip of a shoelace. Telomeres get shorter every time a cell divides, and shorter telomeres are considered a sign of accelerated aging.

This is serious stuff.  So, what is the solution?  Some are arguing that the solution may be pharmacological:

Studies in animals suggest that a single injection of pregnenolone can reduce or “normalize” an exaggerated threat response in socially isolated lab mice, similar to the kind of hyper vigilance lonely people feel that makes them poor at reading other people’s intentions and feelings.

 The researchers have every hope the drug will work in lonely human brains, too…

 Loneliness increases both a desire to connect with others, and a gut instinct for self-preservation (“if I let you get close to me, you’ll only hurt me, too”). People become more wary, cautious and self-centered.  The idea is to help people see things as they are, “rather than being afraid of everyone,” [neuroscientist Stephanie] Cacioppo said.

This is all very interesting.  But I’m not sure that masking a problem medicinally is going to cure an ill socially.  The problem is not just that many of us are lonely – although that certainly is concerning.  The deeper problem, though, is that many of us are, quite literally, alone:

“Nearly 30 million Americans live alone, many not out of preference,” said Christophe Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness. In Canada, the proportion of the population living in one-person households has quadrupled over the past three generations in Canada to 28 percent in 2016, from seven percent in 1951.

 Life expectancy is growing, fertility rates are falling and the population is aging. We’re marrying later and having fewer children, if any at all. Technology means we can do almost all we need to do from home without physically interacting with a single human soul.

Solutions to problems like these cannot be solved by a pill. They can only be solved by other people.

“It is not good for the man to be alone,” God once said of the first man He had created (Genesis 2:18). So, God made for him a companion in Eve. And He’s been making companions ever since. We are called both to find companions and to be a companion. We simply cannot live – at least not well – any other way.

Community is critical for so many things. It is critical to hold us accountable in sin. It is critical to encourage us in dark times. It is critical to celebrate with us good times. It is critical to help us in tough times. There are too many things in life that we simply cannot face alone.

A feeling of loneliness may be able to be helped along by picking up a prescription. A state of aloneness, however, can only be solved by reaching out to another person. So, reach out and help wipe out aloneness. Together, we’re better.

August 26, 2019 at 5:15 am 3 comments


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