Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityU.S. Surgeon General: 'Pandemic of loneliness' at all-time high | WKRC
Close Alert

U.S. Surgeon General: 'Pandemic of loneliness' at all-time high

U.S. Surgeon General: 'Pandemic of loneliness' at all-time high (WKRC/File)
U.S. Surgeon General: 'Pandemic of loneliness' at all-time high (WKRC/File)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A recent advisory from the Surgeon General said loneliness is harming the health of the nation in alarming ways.

One young woman now says anyone can overcome loneliness. Elisa Owens said her isolation and loneliness started when the pandemic changed her college experience. It got worse during her junior year.

“I could tell, looking back now, that I had been starting to get very depressed over the summer, lying in bed a lot. I wasn't engaging with family. I wasn't eating very much. But I didn't know why,” Owens said.

She said she got COVID-19 during the first week of her junior year at Cedarville University. She needed to isolate appropriately in her dorm room.

“And so, I was there alone for about two weeks and had panic attacks by myself and didn't know what to do because nobody could be with me. And so, throughout the rest of the year, I didn't reach out for help necessarily until things got really bad,” Owens said.

She said she finally realized she needed medical care, but only after she tried to take her own life.

"I ended up in inpatient hospitalization in Kettering for about four days, and that was due to another attempted suicide,” Owens said.

It was there, she said, that she finally realized she wasn’t the only one feeling the isolation was killing her.

“It was the first time that I was around a bunch of other people who were dealing with all these same things as me,” Owens said.

And that is what Betsy Linnell, a clinical counselor, said is the first step in healing. In patient or outpatient, she said we can’t heal without help.

"We can't heal ourselves. We can't just pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, like that's not the way it works,” said Linnell, who is also an assistant professor of psychology at Cedarville.

While COVID-19 may be easing right now, the new Surgeon General’s report said the pandemic of loneliness is at an all-time high. It’s a hazard so dangerous, it increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 30%. It increases the risk of dementia by 50%. It also is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, having six alcoholic drinks a day, and is the strongest predictor of whether a person will consider suicide.

To ease loneliness, Linnell said everyone needs to reach out. She said those who are the most successful find a balance of family, friends and faith.

"We are created for relationship. And so, the void of loneliness is actually helping us to seek what we truly need, which is connection to God, connection to each other, growth in the body,” Linnell said.

Owens said she now wants others to know overcoming loneliness takes time. She recently finished her senior year at Cedarville as a social work major. She now hopes to help others on the same journey.

"We got my medication stabilized and I've been in counseling. And my senior year has just been a lot of ups and downs, but now also working in mental health, I have a much better understanding of what many of my clients are going through.” Owens said.

One of the things both Owens and Linnell stress is that no one can heal from loneliness if all his or her friends are electronic. People need human relationships, so they suggest everyone start having face to face conversations again as much as possible.

Comment bubble

A reminder – the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Loading ...