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The Importance of Human Touch: How social distancing will affect us
From:
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
Tenafly , NJ
Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Dr. Patricia A. Farrell
 

No one needs a research study to tell them how important human closeness and touch is to all of us, especially children. But there are studies and they raise issues we cannot dismiss in this time of social distancing and COVID-19.

 

Social distancing is not physical distancing which means keeping more than six feet away from someone. Both types of distancing carry with them a certain toll on our humanity. We are social beings and there are benefits, both acknowledged and some of which we are unaware.

 

Physical distancing denies the small intimacies that we not only enjoy but need. A touch of the hand, a pat on the head for a child, the closeness while sitting somewhere, all of it carries with it psychological and physical benefits. In this regard, homeschooling may actually provide a benefit in terms of learning and intelligence.

 

Studies have shown that the physical teaching of students may increase intellectual abilities. Therefore, out of this pandemic may come a benefit in this regard. Both emotional and physical growth has been shown in decades-long research with children. Readers need look no further than the institutionalized children of Rumania to appreciate how important touch can be to a child. The studies of Rene Spitz with children in New York orphanages after WWII also point to a higher rate of infant mortality related to a lack of touch and physical displays of caring.

 

In some Latin American countries, it is believed that physical closeness can impart benefits for health, and although some may say this is a myth, there may be some truth to it.

 

In the era of physical distancing, we need to remain conscious of the need for some physical touch, even in a stressful, overworked emergency room where a touch can play a critical role. Garbed in protective gowns and masks as the staff may be, a fleeting touch of comfort may be an important factor in patient health.

 

Social distancing, on the other hand, may require re-consideration, too. We needn't give up our social network to save ourselves from the devastating COVID-19 virus. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we keep our connections active.

 

The measure imposed to protect all of us from this virus can result in a sense of isolation, depression, heightened anxiety and despair. Pair that with joblessness, food insecurity and decreased concerns about health and the results are anything but promising.

 

Even those who work in the emergency rooms need to remember to maintain strong social connections as attested to by an increasing suicide rate among healers. Recently, the head of a major city hospital's emergency room committed suicide. She is not alone, as statistics show.

 

Physicians, in fact, are at high risk of suicide as was outlined in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Discussing social distancing, the article noted that, "While these steps are expected to reduce the rate of new infections, the potential for adverse outcomes on suicide risk is high." Suicide hotlines, in fact, have reported an over 300% increase in calls.

 

What Can You Do? Two things of importance

 

  1. Keep your social connections open either through internet connections, phone calls, texts or simple social gestures such as waving at neighbors, friends and co-workers.

 

  1. Engage in one of the new Zoom or other groups that have cropped up where people get together in groups to discuss topics of interest to them. The groups are not strictly aimed at how to deal with the pandemic, but celebrations, hobbies, and other forms of social involvement.

 

We do not need to permit a sense of alienation to grow in our world culture but we do need to work at keeping our mental and physical health strong.

Website: www.drfarrell.net

Author's page: http://amzn.to/2rVYB0J

Medium page: https://medium.com/@drpatfarrell

Twitter: @drpatfarrell

Attribution of this material is appreciated.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
Cell Phone: 201-417-1827
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