Apr 18, 2020 - Health

Isolation can be bad for mental health

Brain in a cage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Every treatment has some side effects — including social distancing.

The big picture: Prolonged isolation, coupled with sustained job losses, could increase the risk of depression, as people are removed from the community support system that keeps them going.

  • That could in turn increase the risk of suicide, as a recent opinion piece in JAMA Psychiatry explains.
  • "A grim tradeoff is already being made between saving different lives: Saving the lives of those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 versus saving the lives of those who are most vulnerable to suicide, substance abuse, and domestic violence," experts at Johns Hopkins write.

What to watch: Virtual check-ins are all the more important here — from simply keeping in touch with friends and family, to online support groups, to telehealth visits with mental health professionals.

None of this means social distancing was a bad idea, or that it needs to end quickly — it's definitely less deadly than the coronavirus. But even the most necessary interventions still need some careful management.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for anyone in distress, in addition to prevention and crisis resources. Also available for online chat.

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