Social Distancing: An underestimated danger for lonely and depressed people


In times of the corona pandemic, it is not only necessary to wash hands regularly, but also to largely suspend social interaction. For lonely people or people suffering from depression, the imposed contact blocks can be particularly hard, warn experts and provide practical advice.

Working from the home office, if possible not going out at all, and if at all then keep a distance of at least one and a half meters from the people around you. No mutual visits, no meetings. Public events are canceled, clubs and gyms are closed. And above all, the motto is: Social Distancing.
The measures taken in the fight against the corona pandemic hit us all hard and pose unknown challenges. Maintaining social distance can have particularly serious consequences for people with depression or other mental illnesses, for older people who are lonely. “They are more sensitive to stress and may get more symptoms – including more anxiety, more panic and depression,” psychiatrist Iris Hauth, board member of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN), told the German Press Agency.

To deal with feelings of fear, loneliness and frustration, some would resort to alcohol or sleeping pills, pain relievers and tranquilizers. But not only is there a risk of addiction – experts are now also paying special attention to suicide prevention.

In order to compensate for the loneliness and insecurity caused by the ban on contacts, help offers such as pastoral hotlines or video consultation hours have been launched nationwide. The German Depression Aid offers telephone counseling and an online program under the title “I fight Depression”. The Professional Association of German Psychologists (BDP) also provides anonymous and free help via the BDP Corona hotline.

“Getting fear under control and converting reason into behavior: This is a special task! And this is exactly where we can support as a professional group. Therefore, from today on we are offering a special kind of advisory service with the BDP Corona hotline, ‚ÄĚsays Dr. Meltem Avci-Werning, President of the BDP. She emphasizes that in particular the uncertainty about the duration of this worldwide state of emergency represents a great psychological burden for all people.

The German Depression Aid shows how you can organize your everyday life in isolation to avoid bad consequences for your psyche with a practical guide that has been published on its website. Even if you stay at home, you should give structure to your everyday life – with fixed processes from getting up in the morning, working and learning hours to planting meals and even leisure activities such as reading, yoga, watching TV or planting a balcony. You should of course continue to be active and do something for your fitness, but also for your mood with jogging or cycling. In addition, it is very important to maintain social contacts despite home office or quarantine. The German Depression Aid advises: Make appointments with friends and family to make calls. On the other hand, you should not give in to the feeling of exhaustion and the severity of depression that can set in, because more sleep does not lead to relaxation and interrupt the daily routine. If those affected are dependent on therapeutic help, they should not have to worry at the moment that it may not be available, because:

“You can also go to your psychotherapeutic practice during the nationwide contact ban. Visits there fall under the regulations for ‘doctor’s visit’ and psychotherapy is a ‘necessary medical service’. If you e.g. Due to a quarantine, you cannot go to your psychotherapist, many practices now offer video consultation hours. Ask your therapist if that’s possible. “

For seniors there is in Berlin “Silver Net” senior hotline. Initiator Elke Schilling also confirms the increased need for discussion here. On some days, five times more people would call than in the past, and there would also be an increasing number of younger seniors and more men.

Depression and loneliness, however, are not the only dangers that professionals see in connection with contact blocking and quarantine. The experiences of China, Italy and France now show a significant increase in domestic violence. The situation is particularly dangerous for children.

“Social control is currently not there – the area where domestic violence against children is otherwise noticeable, ie in schools, daycare centers or child minders, has just disappeared,” says Saskia Etzold, Vice-Head of the Berlin Violence Protection Outpatient Department. Injuries would now be less noticeable to the public. “We have to assume that domestic violence will increase significantly in the next few weeks,” the doctor is quoted by the DPA.

In view of the various challenges and threats to mental and stress-related physical health under conditions of isolation, it seems appropriate to correct the motto of social distancing that has been proclaimed worldwide these days: Maintain physical distance in the form of decency and if possible stay at home – Yes. Social distance in which we are left alone with our fears and problems – no.


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