social distancing a ‘dignified act’, but we must remember to stay connected

Mar 18, 2020

Author: Millicent Spencer

Image by S O C I A L . C U T

Keep your physical distance but stay emotionally connected to other people while COVID-19 rules, a Victorian GP has urged. 

Dr Vyom Sharma, who has been active in educating people about social distancing via Twitter and on 3RRR, said it is important for people to act as a community, or there could be negative effects on our mental health. 

“We want people to realise they are doing something deeply dignified that will save lives. Do it with purpose and take some pride in it. Ironically, by practicing social distancing, you are connecting yourself to the mission of saving thousands of humans,” he said.

The Federal Government today reinforced the message that all Australians should continue to practice social distancing, which includes no hugging, and maintaining a 1.5m distance between people.

Dr Sharma stressed that it is important to focus on the positives during this ‘new normal’, because ultimately, social distancing involves “the denial of the most profound dimension of human existence – connection,” he said.

According to Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services website, “one in five Australians has a mental disorder”. For many, the severing of these traditional methods of social connection could act as a negative trigger.

Dr Sharma suggests reshaping our perception of social distancing within the context of COVID-19.

“Social distancing requires social and psychological connectedness. It’s important to realise why we are social distancing – we are trying to save well over 100,000 lives in this country. The risk to the individual if they do not practice social distancing is mild, but the threat to the community is enormous.”

So, where does this leave you if your mental health is suffering from the reality of social distancing, or if you are currently enduring a 14-day isolation period? 

There are several resources available to Australians. Dr Sharma suggested those suffering should “speak to a helpline, a GP, friends or family.” 

While we must forego social gatherings for now, it is crucial that we stay engaged “either internally through reading, writing, dancing, Netflix; or, socially through phone calls, Skype chats, online forums, or sitting in a lawn separated from friends with a fair distance – yes, even if you have coronavirus!” 

If all else fails, Dr Sharma suggests that we “find humour, irony, profoundness – it is there to be found even the most banal or dark moments.”

If this article has raised any concerns refer to the following support services:

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

COVID-19 National Hotline: 1800 020 080

This article has been published in The Standard.