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  • Jessica Wood

Mental Health Pandemic


The very real crisis that faced me and my child is one that other families are experiencing too, sadly more now than then. Just this month, the US Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, warned the post COVID era is a mental health pandemic. The surgeon general has warned that the effects of loneliness and isolation on an individual’s well being is equivalent to the damage of being a daily smoker. The social connection that we need to ward off depression and anxiety has been lacking and approximately half of Americans report concerning levels of satisfying social connection. Reports of feeling lonely are correlated with double the risk for depression (US Department of Health and Human Services, May 2023). This is a shocking report and alarm bell that we would be served to take seriously, especially among our teen and young adult population. They are at great risk in part because the very developmental stage they are in requires them to connect for psychological developmental and individual growth. Erik Erikson, the renowned personality theorist, identified the critical tasks facing developing adults. These “tasks” were essentially called “crisis’s” in his theory because each of the identified stages requires successful completion for a positive mental health outcome. To complete each task well helps an individual strengthen their ego and character which helps them successfully address the subsequent stages. From approximately age 13-21 this stage is called “identity formation versus confusion” and the trying on of various social identities is a healthy part of this psychosocial expression. When that task is met, the individual enters young adulthood which is approximately age 21-39 where the greatest task is “intimacy vs isolation.” These two tasks, of the eight that we encounter during the lifespan, are socially driven in need and therefore the loneliness epidemic is of great concern for our society and its young adults’ health and development. We need each other to be successful! We need connection and social belonging, it is critical. I am hopeful that the rebound of this lockdown pandemic helps us realize our great need for each other and we find ways as families and communities to get through this together. Remember, anxiety and depression take on many expressions and forms. Eating disorders are one of the most serious expressions of emotional pain that is isolating in its expression. If your child or family member is withdrawing socially and isolating themselves, be attentive to the signs. In my book I describe 10 clues an eating disorder has hijacked your child’s brain. These are: (1) eating patterns change, (2) distancing socially, (3) hobbies avoided, (4) image fixation, (5) justification of privacy, (6) anxiety and moodiness, (7) calorie counting, (8) keeping body hidden, (9) excessive movement, and (10) dramatic shift in personality. If you recognize these signs, there is help available at www.nationaleatingdisorder.org and www.maudsleyparents.org


US Department of Health and Human Services (2023, May 3). New Surgeon General Advisory Raises Alarm about the Devastating Impact of the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/05/03/new-surgeon-general-advisory-raises-alarm-about-devastating-impact-epidemic-loneliness-isolation-united-states.html

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