PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It is the latest declared public health epidemic – loneliness and isolation. On Tuesday, the Surgeon General detailed the issues in a newly released report this Mental Health Awareness Month.
“I definitely think it’s a problem especially in the world we live in right now,” Temple student Elena Gilbert said.
Lamont Collins from Elkins Park added, “As much as I can try to carry the light, this city, you can see it in the faces and people don’t look too happy.”
In the more than 80-page report, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy writes in part, “We have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis.”
He goes on to note “…lacking social connection can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.”
“It makes me think of my neighbors. My parents are gone now and a lot of my aunts and uncles are gone, except for one, but my neighbors and to be more caring, to reach out more,” South Philly resident Renee Novello said.
According to the agency, loneliness impacts nearly half of American adults and increases health risks, including heart disease, stroke and premature death. The Surgeon General notes pandemic lockdowns and social media worsened the problem.
“We were forced to stay in the house for about one-to-two years and it just really forced you to isolate from other people. I can definitely see how that carried into after the pandemic,” Temple student Kendall Tyler said.
The report does not come as a surprise to those CBS News Philadelphia spoke to at Temple and in Spring Garden, nor does it surprise psychotherapist Shayna Yvonne Rudd.
“It sounds like a cry for help. If the surgeon general is saying that loneliness is an issue, it’s time to start checking in on our loved ones,” psychotherapist Shayna Yvonne Rudd said.
From schools to businesses, the Surgeon General is calling on the community to come together to make change. He outlines it in a six pillar plan, which includes “reform digital environments” and “cultivate a culture of connection.”
“We are on the heels of the pandemic, like we just came off of this and I think that one thing we haven’t done is address mental health as it relates to the pandemic in this country,” Rudd said.
The Philadelphia psychotherapist hopes the advisory starts conversations, while also encouraging those in need, to seek help.
For those in need of resources:
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