Adult failure to thrive syndrome can be caused by social isolation. We must find ways to still share human contact. Public Domain

Help ! We All Need Hugs.

Human touch, like hugs, can help people thrive during the Coronavirus pandemic. We need hugs, and depriving ourselves of them can be detrimental to our health.

By Susan Lippman

Hugs are a lot healthier and safer than isolation, even during a pandemic. I will share a link that explains how to hug safely. We need hugs, and depriving ourselves and each other of them can literally be deadly, no less deadly than the coronavirus. Before you accuse me of being a right wing nut job or conspiracy theorist, let me assure you that I have no doubt that COVID-19 is real and for some, very dangerous. Clearly, this country has done a miserable job in dealing with it. Otherwise, this very wealthy country of ours wouldn’t have the highest death rate in the world with a disproportionate number being Latinx people and people of color. The poor, as usual, are the hardest hit. I definitely believe that we should all wear masks, as it has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that masks are life savers. If businesses need to close or reduce their services, there should be adequate compensation for those small business owners and workers who are adversely affected, as has happened in many other countries. I believe that schools and restaurants and beauty salons and nail shops could open safely with precautions. It should be incumbent upon the government, federal, state and local, to insure that every facility and every home and apartment has adequate ventilation.

Another issue that I have not seen addressed is the volume of music played in restaurants and outdoors wherever there is outdoor dining. Research has proven that talking at a normal level has minimal risk of spreading the virus, but loud talking can be a super spreader. So when loud music is playing, people are compelled to speak very loudly in order to be heard. Therefore, there need to be adequate restrictions against loud music in all commercial establishments.

For a detailed description of all that needs to be done, check out this COVID-19 management protocol.

Of course, what I am proposing costs money, but as You Tube star Jimmy Dore points out often is that as a major part of the only so-called stimulus  package we have seen in the United States, there was the largest transfer of wealth upward in the history of the planet. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, Whole Foods, and the Washington Post is the richest man on earth, having gained most of his wealth by exploiting his workers and punishing and firing those who dare to protest. Christian Smalls, an African American whistle blower, who exposed the dangerous conditions at Amazon plants was summarily fired and gaslit. Bezos lied and called him,”not smart and articulate.” Listen to Smalls speak and you’ll notice that he is exceptionally smart and articulate.

The crisis of isolation.

But back to my initial statement. We all need hugs. There is another major crisis in our country, that of isolation. Babies who are not held die. Hugs are the strongest immune booster there is. So to attempt to keep our immune systems strong by avoiding touch is an oxymoron.

Workers in long term facilities have been appalled by the death rate among people without Covid-19. They are dying of what is caused by what is known as adult failure to thrive syndrome caused by social isolation. When they can’t see or touch their closest friends or relatives and all their activities have been curtailed, their will to live rapidly vanishes. And cognition declines rapidly when one is isolated. We need human connections to stimulate our brains. The workers in these facilities were horrified to see people decline mentally and physically with frightening rapidity. Usually, physical and mental decline is a rather slow process, occurring over months and more often years. Now people have declined precipitously in a matter of weeks. And that is absolutely horrifying. When people feel despair and they have nothing to live for, and no one is allowed to visit or touch them, the result all too often accelerates death, totally unnecessarily. Note that doctors and nurses, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, touch their patients all the time, and, to my knowledge, outside of the Covid units, where adequate protective gear is seldom provided to medical personnel, the Covid rate among practitioners has not increased.

Poor quality of life, isolation, hopelessness, combined, often equal abnormally rapid decline and premature death. With rare exceptions, the mainstream media has been silent about this crucial issue.

Isolation and despair not only affect the elderly. There has been a surge of suicides, increased alcoholism and drug addictions, and related deaths among younger adults, especially middle aged men, many of whom have lost their jobs with no prospects of getting new jobs any time soon. Not only that, but research has shown that isolation can easily beget aggression. When formerly isolated people, some of whom had committed violent crimes, were given massages of a regular basis, their aggression decreased significantly, and they became a lot more empathetic. So that to me is a powerful argument to immediately ban all solitary confinement.

Mental health problems are growing exponentially, yet services are sorely lacking. In most agencies, when services are cut, social workers are the first to go. And we often forget that mental health workers are adversely affected by our failed state’s refusal to address people’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, health care, and love and affection, all of which are sadly lacking for far too many people today. And mental health practitioners cannot create miracles.

There are healthy ways of hugging.

What I have addressed thus far is the tip of the iceberg, and what is so frightening to me is that the incoming administration, despite its diversity, is beholden mostly to its Wall Street donors, and not to the people whom it’s supposed to be serving.

Additionally, fewer people are having children, as they are reluctant to bring children into our dystopian world. So what needs to be done? I agree with Jimmy Dore, among others, who are calling for a general strike. However, that would probably be extremely difficult to achieve, because our society has been so brainwashed. So many believe that a Biden presidency is all we need to reverse the horrible direction in which our society is headed. However, the diversity in Biden’s cabinet is a mere red herring. Look beneath the multicolored faces. They are beholden to Wall Street and to our bloated military. So somehow or other, despite increasing censorship of alternative voices, we need to find a way to get our voices heard and let people know the truth. Thus far, excellent voices are still available on the Internet, but people must search to find them. When people are hurting, it’s easy to find scapegoats, which is why the threat of overt fascism in this country is so real and so terrifying. But when I hear amazing labor organizer Jane McAlevey speak and when I read her books, I am heartened. She has been able to bring together people of varying ideologies together to win contracts, mostly for nurses, by explaining to them that in order to win their rights, they will have to work together. And most of the time they do.

Another monumental task that’s needed in this country is to revise our educational system, to ban standardized tests and teach children to think critically. Of course, many of their teachers need to learn the same. It all can feel incredibly overwhelming, but we must begin now.

And now I will come back to my initial point, that the mental crisis in this country is as lethal as the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s find healthy ways of hugging the people we feel close to. It might actually save their lives. Reaching out to others in every way possible is crucial. Massage is essential, too. That, too, can be done safely. We somehow have to find a way to find free or low cost massage therapy for everyone.

It’s awful but not at all surprising that poor folks and people of color are the worst affected by the pandemic. Their lack of access to medical care in this country, even in the best of times, among other daily stresses they encounter, weakens their immune system.

Of course, the finest care has been available to Trump and other high level people, so they recover rather quickly. We must demand the same level of care for everyone.

How I wish I were able to turn things around, but maybe this article will be food for thought for some people, who will work together to help turn around the horror we are experiencing these days. Meanwhile, don’t be afraid of a safe hug, please.

Susan Lippman is a retired social worker/psychotherapist.

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