11/04/2024

Care Health

Prioritize Healthy life

CHI Health psychiatrists offer tips on tackling loneliness

CHI Health psychiatrists offer tips on tackling loneliness

For happy couples, Valentine’s Day is a celebratory day. For many others, the holiday is one where feelings of loneliness surface.

On the eve of the Feast of St. Valentine, two CHI Health doctors, psychiatrists Zachary Keller and Harmit Singh, offered tips in a Zoom panel discussion for singles and those in unhappy relationships to combat the loneliness that was declared a public health crisis by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy last May. About half the people in the U.S. reported experiencing some form of loneliness, Murthy said in a May press release.

Singh said the detrimental physical effects of loneliness can be severe.

“There are studies that suggest loneliness is as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” he said. “On the other side, social connection can improve your survival rates by 50%. So you’re talking some real change with some very meaningful and simple changes in our social lives.”

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While for some people loneliness is not abnormal, Keller said, prolonged feelings of loneliness can lead to isolation and further ramifications down the road, including not taking care of oneself.

Keller advises people who see a kid experiencing notable loneliness to speak with that person and provide them a level of safety to share their feelings.

“Try to figure out what is going on in their lives and then just give them the proper support,” he said. “Every kid going through this life should or will be in some aspect of therapy so that way they can really learn how to communicate their thoughts and their feelings.”

Among adults, many lonely people are in their senior citizen years, Singh said. Their loneliness can be exacerbated by health issues, which can include chronic illness, mobility, vision and hearing problems, that limit their social interaction.

Singh also advised people to be on the lookout for people who start to socially isolate. That social isolation can lead to people not taking care of themselves and harboring feelings of hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts.

To alleviate feelings of loneliness, Singh advised people to prioritize five Fs: Family, friends, faith, finding a communal space that works for you, and finding your purpose of service.

“That’s how communities are built,” Singh said. “When you help others, they help you. Connections are formed. I feel like humanity … is a family of families. And so if we can connect them together, then we have a healthy and resilient society.”

“There are studies that suggest loneliness is as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. On the other side, social connection can improve your survival rates by 50%.”

Dr. Harmit Singh, CHI Health psychiatrist

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