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The term 'social distancing' can be hurtful

The mental health professionals at Retreat Behavioral Health in New Haven say the term “social distancing” is not the best for either clinicians or patients.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — While many of us are understandably stressed by what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to our world, changing terminology can improve outcomes for those who can really suffer psychologically in this type of environment.

The mental health professionals at Retreat Behavioral Health in New Haven say the term “social distancing” is not the best for either clinicians or patients.

“Many of us, we believe that physical distancing is what is the term that we should actually be using,” said Jacqueline James, MSW, of Retreat Behavioral Health.

Hearing ”social distancing” is not good for people with specific struggles, including “depression, people that have issues of bipolar disorder, people that have actually been dealing with some issues of isolation,” James said.

When we say “social distancing,” some take that as cutting off communication.

“We believe that people should keep their physical distance, but also interact,” said James. “We’re asking everyone out there to call someone, to text someone or to email.”

And, she suggests, make an extra effort to keep in touch, through events that have always been done in person

“We are encouraging people to do birthday parties online or you know do class reunions online,” James said. “There are a lot of apps that you can use to do these things.”

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In other words: make sure you check up on friends and family.

“This is a stressful time for many people,” she said. “And distancing, any level of distancing, can actually make the situation worse.”

If you know of someone, who is struggling with mental health issues, Retreat Behavioral Health says they are here to serve individuals and organizations in New Haven.