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Making the “Connection”: Women Reducing Loneliness and Social-Isolation

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

By Janine Payne

It seems that loneliness and social isolation have been topics that are rocking the airwaves, especially since COVID-19, and that’s understandable. However, I recently read an article about a woman in the United Kingdom who in 2017 tossed out a question to her friends and followers on social media asking if they’d ever experienced loneliness. The response was overwhelming, with many people acknowledging and sharing brief examples of personal loneliness; several people commented that for whatever reason, they didn’t really talk about it with anyone. That was three years ago.

Today, I’ve started to delve into this topic even more since learning that our organization would host Dr. Alice Chen, an internal medicine physician to talk about loneliness and social isolation (learn more and register here). Dr. Chen & Dr. Vivek Murthy co-wrote an article, “Coronavirus Could Cause a Social Recession” (The Atlantic), and says that “The pandemic could trigger something else: a social recession—a fraying of social bonds that further unravel the longer we go without human interaction. This can have harmful effects on people’s mood, health, ability to work and learn, and sense of community.”

That’s not all, they also said that young adults share a large burden of loneliness and social isolation, and “More adults in the United States struggle with loneliness than smoke or have diabetes. And this is not unique to the United States. Australia, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and a growing list of other countries, recognizing a profound and widespread problem, have started anti-loneliness initiatives to educate the public and promote community-building practices.”

So, I thought – wait, hold on – not on our watch! The Institute for the Advancement of Women’s Health (IAWH) is designed to address health issues – that’s why we’re here. Women can serve as change agents to help each other get through loneliness and social-isolation – but through platforms (yes, online) where we can gather, share, say “Hello From the Other Side” (come on Adele) with each other. We can learn from women in Africa, India, China, UK, Denmark, Canada, and other countries what they are doing to combat loneliness…surviving, and not just during the pandemic, but moving forward. Period.

Take this example of how connections can help save lives:

Dixon Chibanda, MD, is one of 12 psychiatrists in Harare, Zimbabwe with a population of more than 16 million and founder of the Friendship Bench program. He trained elderly Zimbabwean women to deliver evidence-based talk therapy on benches under trees to bring care and hope to those in need. Dr. Chibanda is passionate about connecting with ordinary people in ways that improve their lives using simple but effective programs that can be carried out by non-specialists or professionals. He likes to think outside the box as he explores ways of helping people with conditions such as depression, PTSD and ADHD.