• The Loneliness Epidemic in America

    The Loneliness Epidemic in America

    Content provided by: Monika Taylor, Director of Marketing and Communications, Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia

    The US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, the nation’s top doctor, announced in May 2023 that loneliness is an epidemic in our country. It impacts both our mental and physical health. Murthy stated loneliness poses the same health risks as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. It is also linked to depression which is the number one cause of disease worldwide. In the workplace, it impacts staff productivity, increases sick days, and affects the financial bottom line. Loneliness and depression are part of the mental health spectrum.

    There are many reasons people feel lonely across the country and worldwide. One of the most prominent is a lack of social connection. COVID-19 ushered in a new wave of loneliness as social distancing and staying inside were encouraged for safety. Life changes such as a new job, working from home, long commutes, anxiety, divorce, relationship concerns, financial issues, retirement, or the loss of a loved one, can also lead to feelings of loneliness. These issues disrupt our normal channels of connection, and we feel isolated as a result.

    Negative self-talk and feelings of worthlessness can also make it difficult to connect with others and form meaningful relationships. Social media contributes as well because it can make us feel inadequate when looking at how others are living and comparing their lives to our own.

    There are other reasons why people feel the way they do, of course. Unbeknownst to many, feelings of unworthiness and loneliness can be tied to past trauma. Trauma can

    happen at any time in our lives, but often it is tied to our childhoods. Unresolved trauma can make successful, fulfilling relationships a challenge to obtain and sustain. It can also continue to influence our behaviors throughout our lives without us realizing it.

    There is hope for adults who feel lonely -

    Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia (RPSV) is a proud member of the Reston Chamber. RPSV supports adults with mental health, substance use, and homelessness issues across Fairfax and Arlington Counties. RPSV’s programs are all free and individuals do not need a referral or insurance to access them. RPSV offers a virtual group for adults on the second and fourth Friday of every month at 7 pm titled Facing and Overcoming Loneliness. During the groups, individuals get to know others and make new friends. You will always find participants laughing, sharing, and relating to each other in the group. It’s common to hear comments such as, “This is exactly what I needed,” and “I never knew programs like this existed” during the group. One woman, who has attended the group since its inception shared, “This program literally saved my life.”

    In total, RPSV offers more than a dozen virtual groups each week, Monday through Saturday, on a variety of topics, from Creative Expressions to Pathways to Resilience. The groups are offered at various times throughout the day and evening.

    RPSV follows the peer support model so staff have experienced similar issues with mental health, substance use, and/or homelessness issues, including loneliness. As a result, every program and action are led with empathy and understanding. It is truly a nonjudgmental environment.

    During the virtual groups, you can join with your camera off and do not need to participate if you do not feel comfortable. You can just be there, with others, and enjoy the camaraderie. Most often, when people join in such a fashion, by the end of the group they often have their cameras on and do not want to leave because they are having so much fun interacting with others.

    Additionally, RPSV offers virtual one-on-one calls via Zoom.us on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6-9 pm. Staffed by trained Certified Peer Support Specialists and volunteers, these calls offer a unique way to share how you are feeling with someone who is there to listen and support you on a more personal level.

    RPSV operates five in-person Recovery Centers across Northern Virginia (in Annandale, Arlington, Merrifield, Reston, and South County Alexandria) too. Our Reston Wellness Center is located in the North County Building, 1850 Cameron Glen Drive, Suite 200. At RPSV we truly meet people where they are in life and support them as they move forward to pursue their dreams.

    Supporting the business community: RPSV offers free Business Support Groups that are tailored to the organization (as well as community groups and faith-based entities). During the sessions, attendees share and grow together. It is great for team building and morale. The Surgeon General said in April 2023, “When people feel a greater sense of connection to each other in the workplace, it positively impacts their creativity, their productivity, and their engagement, which has downstream impacts on retention." (https://tinyurl.com/vmurthy) Clearly, a sense of connection is vital in all aspects of our lives, including the workplace. Our Business Support Groups can help your organization support your employees!

    With the advent of the pandemic in 2020, 1 in 6 Americans sought out mental health support for the first time to cope with life's stressors. It really is okay to ask for help. RPSV Cares. We are here for you, just reach out! Learn more at rpsva.org.

    To access our virtual programming, please visit https://slate.knack.com/rpsv#new-participant to register.

    For more information on our Business Support Groups, or any other questions, please contact mtaylor@recoveryprograms.us.