Perhaps you have seen this GIF floating around on your social media. Kermit is on screen doing a slow dance waving his arms around and looks high or drunk. Underneath Kermit are the words, “When you’re on day 2 of COVID-19 self-isolation, but your eighth bottle of wine”. Or – maybe you’ve seen a Facebook status update about how sick your friend is of being locked in the house with their partner. So sick, in fact, they might just murder them. It’s all in good fun, right?
The answer, for me at least, is a hard no – it is not funny given the current crisis our world faces.
I do see a well-intentioned way of attempting to add levity and to commiserate with one’s community. However, I would be remiss if I did not admit part of me is deflated when I see GIFs or memes like this. To me, posts that mock substance abuse or tease that a spouse is going to ‘kill’ their partner because they are in close quarters are as tone deaf as Gale Gadot’s celebrity rendition of “Imagine”.
Substance use disorder, disordered eating, domestic abuse, and depression are some of the sufferings that will likely get worse during the COVID-19 crisis. Isolation will be one of the largest factors in contributing to these challenges. The rub here is that isolation is a necessary to mitigate the transmission of this virus.
Isolation can engulf an individual with despair and hopelessness. Consider that “alcoholism results in social isolation or in increased isolation” and that one precondition for alcoholism is social isolation.  Our current reality is both antecedent and accelerant in the cycle of substance use disorders.
The impact of quarantine extends to depression as well. A five year longitudinal study “from an ethnically diverse representative sample show[ed] that loneliness predicts changes in depressive symptoms”. Beyond increasing feelings of depression, the opportunity to notice changes in loved ones becomes more challenging than in the pre-COVID-19 world. We may have noticed a friend beginning to isolate themselves and stop participating with us in the normal ways – now observing that behavior is not as easy because we are all isolating ourselves.
An article in Time magazine exposes the serious threat COVID-19 isolation may also have on victims of domestic violence. In the article, Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said that “while the number of abuse cases may not rise during the coronavirus crisis, people who were already in an abusive situation will likely find themselves facing more extreme violence, and can no longer escape by going to work or seeing friends”. Shelters and other services may be closed or overcrowded leaving the victims with few options to leave an abusive situation.
So, what is there to do?
- Be intentional, considerate, and discerning with your social media posts.
- Check in on loved ones consistently using apps like FaceTime, House Party, and Marco Polo. Seeing someone’s body language and physical appearance can provide insight into how they are coping.
- Use your social media platform to offer your assistance to those who need it – especially to people who may only be acquaintances. If you are willing and able to provide support in a crisis, make that clear. The person in crisis may have no close friends or relative who they can reach out to.
- If you are someone who needs support, ask for help.
Though we cannot change the current reality, we can remain connected, compassionate, and empathetic with one another. Below are some resources that may be helpful in a time of crisis.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
 Singer, E., Blane, H. T., & Kasschau, R. (1964). Alcoholism and social isolation. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 69(6), 681–685. https://doi-org.pgi.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/h0043758
 Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L. C., & Thisted, R. A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 453–463. https://doi-org.pgi.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/a0017216