MINNEAPOLIS — The holiday season is normally a time to gather with family and friends. This year, as tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases are reported daily nationwide, many people are choosing to stay home or isolate themselves from those they love.
“The holidays are all about celebrating with people [and] family and not being able to do that is detrimental to your health,” says Ann Fosco with Little Brother’s Friends of the Elderly.
Fosco is a community impact director with Little Brother’s Minnesota helping to connect volunteers with the elderly. "For the last 8 months we have had to pivot and do connecting via telephone,” says Fosco.
Fosco says volunteers mail care packages to the elderly for Thanksgiving and the holidays, many who are still feeling the weight of isolation – almost 8 months into the pandemic. "Things are so much harder with COVID-19 restrictions," says Fosco. "Family members aren’t able to see their mother aunt, grandmother, who might be living in an assisted living facility or a nursing care center.”
Dr. Jessica Cici is a psychiatrist at M Health Fairview. She says people who live alone may be most affected by loneliness. "This holiday season, the pandemic has added additional layers to this experience of loneliness, and with COVID-19 numbers rising, we are being asked to dial back," says Dr. Cici.
While experts say feelings of loneliness can lead to more severe illnesses - like depression, anxiety and substance abuse - they say it’s important to reach out to loved ones or friends, or seek out a community for support. "Be kind to yourself, and acknowledge the fact that this isn’t an easy time for most of us and you are not alone,” says Dr. Cici. "It's hard all year round for our older adults who are lonely, and it’s really going to take a community,” says Fosco.
If you would like to learn more about the Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly program or if you would like to volunteer, visit their website.
To help in these challenging times, DHS has launched a page with a number of mental health resources on the Minnesota COVID-19 response website. It offers residents a range of support that includes:
- Coping with COVID - An online resource developed by Minnesota DHS
- Peer Support Connection Warmline - Peer-to-peer telephone support that’s safe and supportive. Call or text 844-739-6369 between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m.
- **CRISIS - Call **CRISIS (274747) from a cell phone to talk to professionals who can help.
- Crisis Text Line - Text "MN" to 741 741
- Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline - A service of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Call 833-600-2670
- Tools 2 Thrive - This website focuses on resources to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Warmlines MN from mentalhealthmn.org - Call 651-288-0400 or 877-404-3190, or text "support" to 85511
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).