Counselors bring connections to people living alone
The isolation of the stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic is magnified for people who live alone.
Without routines that bring interaction, connections and stress relief, mental health experts say, it's OK to reach out for professional help.
Suburban psychologists and mental health agencies are employing phone and virtual visits to counsel live-alone clients and help them find strategies to cope with loneliness.
Loneliness can raise levels of stress hormones and cause an inflammatory response in the body, which can increase risk for heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and dementia, according to Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Experts at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health within the Edward-Elmhurst system are conducting virtual psychiatry appointments and are available for new patients who reach out at eehealth.org/services/behavioral-health or by calling (630) 305-5027. They're also suggesting tips like adopting a pet, finding ways to laugh, volunteering, keeping a gratitude journal and practicing self-care to help people avoid feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Clinicians at the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin are checking in with clients via phone or video chat, helping them cope with established mental health diagnoses while also enduring the new stressors of the pandemic, CEO Daphne Sandouka said.
One key for people living on their own is to focus on things they can control, such as "What am I going to do today to stay connected," Sandouka said, rather than "things that are beyond their control, like the number of COVID infections or what's going to happen to me tomorrow."
Clinicians at the Ecker Center are helping clients stay engaged with typical routines, such as tuning into online versions of weekly church services or keeping sleep and exercise patterns intact, Clinical Director Vicky Gesinger said. Counselors are "trying to put more focus on those things, versus watching the news, which can be overwhelming," she said.
To reach out, visit eckercenter.org or call (847) 695-0484 ext. 1898.
Psychologist Ray Kadkhodaian, founder and president of Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center in Arlington Heights, is using free online support groups, available at facebook.com/LighthouseEmotionalWellness/, to help people who live alone or otherwise feel isolated. He encourages people who live alone to use digital connections, but also to remember to unplug at least once a day, preferably in the evening before bed.