Staying Connected

Social Connectedness can be seen as one of the pillars of recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs and a fundamental aspect of being a human being. Social Connectedness has been proposed as the primary determinant for youth adjustment (Guerra & Bradshaw, 2008). Many have touted benefits of Social Connectedness with individuals having both health and mental health conditions.

How can we now live in a world of “Social Distancing”? New language has been developed under the premise of the Novel Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19). Because this is a novel (new) virus, does this mean we need to create new words or phrases to protect the masses?

Language can be part of how individuals see themselves or the life they lead. Many spend much time contemplating the language they use to not be offensive or put individuals into “boxes.” Society and the individuals in the media have inadvertently done exactly that to the most vulnerable population, our people who have or live with underlying mental health conditions and/or substance use issues. Loneliness predicts depression (Nolen-Hoeksema & Ahrens, 2002) and we as professionals need to do our part to combat the current situation.

So, what if we asked people to “physically distance” themselves? Would this be viewed in another fashion? Is this not what we are asking people to do? Create space between you and the others around you to help “flatten the curve” and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Where does “Social Connectedness” fall now? We need to recreate how our helping environments provide safety around gathering. Churches, social clubs, bars, and 12 step groups (important to our population), have created new ways for folks to connect socially. The use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Zoom, Facetime, and many others are the norm to provide the connection people attempt to reach. 

What about the physical touch of another human being? The social hug from a stranger whose culture believes in hugging is part of “Social Connectedness.” For the common good, hugging and proximity to others will have to wait.

We can work to change the language which seems to now be a part of our daily lives and think about how language can affect those around us.