Connect on social media using the hashtags #GetReal and #MentalHealthWeek.
An epidemic of loneliness
Even before there was COVID-19, loneliness and social isolation were already of major concern in our society.
People with weak or few social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and suicidal behaviours.(1)
Lack of strong relationships affects the risk of mortality in a comparable way to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.(2)
A 2017 Vancouver Foundation survey found that nearly a third of people aged 18-24 in the bustling city said that they felt lonely.(3)
Research shows that loneliness is more keenly felt by people who belong to a visible minority, who are Indigenous, who have mobility challenges and who are LGBTQ-identifying.(4)
The importance of social connection
Social inclusion and social integration have been identified by the WHO and the UN as important protective factors for good mental health.
By providing emotional support, companionship and opportunities for meaningful social engagement, social networks have an influence on self-esteem, coping effectiveness, depression, distress and sense of well-being.
Social networks and social ties have a beneficial effect on mental health outcomes, including stress reactions, psychological well-being and symptoms of psychological distress including depression and anxiety.
Studies show that having social connections and being civically engaged are associated with positive mental and physical health and well-being.(5)
Research has shown that even having one good friend can save children from being lonely.(6)
Social connection in a time of social distancing
Everyone needs emotional support, but it’s even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some experts have argued that social distancing should actually be called physical distancing, because we actually need each other socially. Read more on this subject in a recent opinion piece in The Globe & Mail here.
Phone calls, video calls and other digital technologies offer excellent opportunities for connecting face-to-face, even when we can’t be in the same room.
The pandemic can bring us together in unexpected ways. Canada has been at the forefront of a campaign for caremongering, which has seen members of the community helping one another during these difficult times.
Social connection can help us recover as a community. Socially connected communities simply respond better to crisis and disaster, and rebound better afterwards.
Connecting doesn’t just feels good – it’s good for our mental health