The exact opposite of social distancing…

March 19, 2020

As we all know so well now, effective disease prevention demands that we stop gathering in crowds, that we work and study remotely, and that we create some health-preserving space between ourselves and others. The expectation is that physical distance will keep the virus from spreading so quickly.

So, physical distancing, yes please! But social distancing?

I don’t know why we all settled on that term so quickly, but social distancing is the exact opposite of what’s best for our mental health right now. What we need is social closeness, solidarity, mutual support, and a confidence-building sense of strength in togetherness.

Fortunately, physical distance has never had to be an obstacle to being present to and supportive of one another. When there was very little technology and people had to cross oceans in sailing ships, they managed to preserve relationships and maintain strong connections with friends and loved ones by exchanging letters, though it took weeks or even months.

We have so many more options available to us now!

Today, then, be sure to keep your physical distance, but eliminate social distance by using a simple technology to get closer to someone, or to a few people. Surprise someone with a phone call. Nothing beats time spent listening to a loved one’s voice, and spending that time in connection without agenda.

Social closeness, even from a distance, is good medicine. Astronauts orbiting the earth for months at a time in the confines of the International Space Station depend on the technology which lets them phone home to maintain their mental health and wellbeing.

Call your mother. Call your father. Call your son or daughter. Call your old friend. Call someone who always makes you laugh or smile. And, especially, call someone who you think might be lonely or anxious and do what you can to make that someone laugh or smile.

Vincent Atchity
President & CEO
Mental Health Colorado

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