Mental health experts offer advice on dealing with loneliness

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — As home isolation continues, some people said they’re struggling with being alone for an extended amount of time. Mental health experts said this is a struggle that’s affecting people of all ages.

When universities across the country closed doors last month many students returned home to be with loved ones. However, Joshua Beckles, a junior at Bradley University, said it was better if he didn’t.

“It’s because travelling is really risky,” Beckles said. “Coming from New York, it’s so scary hearing about how many [COVID-19] cases happen and how fast they happen so we were like Peoria is much safer for me to stay here.”

Beckles said he currently lives alone, hours away from family and friends, which at times can take a toll on him.

“There are a few days where I’m like ‘I don’t want to be here any more’,” Beckles said. “I really just wanna be in my own bed in my own room.”

He said these are the times where he turns to his loved ones.

“Those are the days where I just call a friend or call my family and we’ll just talk it through,” Beckles said.

Dr. Ted Bender, president of UnityPlace, said loneliness is detrimental to mental health and social connectedness is necessary for survival.

“When you experience extreme loneliness it’s torturous,” Bender said. “For many people, being separated from others or having a lack of contact with other people creates a condition that can be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having severe alcohol use disorder.”

Dr. Bender said before the COVID-19 pandemic started, loneliness in the United States was at an all-time high. He said he suggests trying to connect with others or finding projects to stay busy often helps.

“You can try online courses and use the time to better yourself,” Bender said. “Learn how to cook. Sales at places like Lowes and Home Depot are skyrocketing because everyone’s just doing home projects. So there is a lot you can do to stay busy, to stave off that loneliness and remain connected.”

Beckles said he often turns to arts and crafts and photography, but connecting with family and friends is his ultimate form of solace.

“They’ll call me and check up on me but if people don’t have that it can get really hard,” Beckles said.

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