The Impacts of Social Isolation During Quarantine

A greiving father posted a video explaining the role social isolation has played in the suicide of his 12-year-old son, urging others to be open about their psychological response to COVID-19. On April 17, three days before his thirteenth birthday, Hayden Hunstable took his own life. His father, Brad Hunstable, believes his cause of death to be COVID-19 restrictions on human interaction.

“Human condition is not to be socially isolated,” Brad Hunstable said. 

Hayden Hunstable was known as a particularly happy kid. He wore a big smile, loved playing Fortnite and had many friends. His father reported that he occasionally got down on himself, but no more than any other pre-teen. 

"I think the scary thing about COVID for me and the isolation is that it amplifies what is ever there and makes it even bigger,” Brad said in an interview with WBNS. 

According to the video released on Facebook, Hayden’s 8-year-old sister was the first to find him. She immediately ran to get her father and neighbors for help. Hunstable performed CPR and used a defibrillator on his son, but these efforts could not save him.   

The CDC released information on the stressors and suggestions for relief of coronavirus induced anxiety. Children and teens are amongst the highest risk for responding to social isolation with fear and mental health deterioration. Human interaction is vital for mental wellbeing, especially during the formative years of a child’s life. 

Seeing this video has made me reflect on the effects quarantine has on those of us who already felt alone. Especially those of us living alone and children without siblings, who are without backyards, or who are living in a dangerous home situation.

The world is under an immense amount of stress during this trying time. Job loss, adaptation to new means of education and the stressors of being around family every moment of the day only add to the situation. Activities commonly used to relieve stress such as attending sporting events, restaurants, parks and other recreational activities have been put on hold. Homes have turned into hubs for people under incomprehensible stress, which in Brad Hunstable’s terms, amplifies the anxieties we already have.  

While the current health condition of the world prohibits us from rectifying this social issue, it is imperative that we are using this time to be honest about our mental health with those around us. Open conversations about our stressors can be the difference between suffering and relief.     

If you or a family member is struggling with the effects of social isolation, remember there are ways to treat your mental pain, just as there are ways to treat physical pain. 

  1. The CDC suggests taking a step back from social media. Constantly reminding yourself of the pandemic, hearing the opinions of yet another “official,” and subjecting yourself to the repetition of death tolls, case studies and infections cannot eradicate the virus - it will only take a toll on your own health. Find a hobby that is screen-free (ie. gardening, art, reading, exercising) and take a step back from the madness. 

  2. Maintain your physical health by regulating breathing, meditating, eating well, exercising and sleeping. Everybody is posting their at-home workout routines, yoga studios have gone virtual and choices you make for quarantine snacks have a direct impact on how you feel. Avoid drinking excessively– it’s not the answer and actually serves as a depressant to your body. 

  3. Connect with others. I personally am not a Facetime kind of person. Since quarantine, I’ve found myself distancing from friends and family even with social media and digital means of communication. I’m not a doctor, so I cannot back this claim with statistical or psychological reasoning, but I know I feel better after a friend initiates a conversation and makes me pick up the phone. I encourage you to make it a point to talk to someone outside of your home everyday, whether that’s a phone call, Facetime or standing on opposite sides of the street yelling to one another. Don’t make yourself feel more alone than you really are.

The CDC has also urged parents to respond calmly and confidently, as children are known to mimic the attitudes of their parents. A list of behavior changes to be aware of can be found here. 

The mental effects of this disease are unquantifiable, as every single person will react differently to the situation. As May is mental health awareness month, I feel it necessary to stop focusing on the physical tolls coronavirus has bestowed upon us, and instead start a conversation about how we are going to recuperate a world shadowed by fear for so many months.

Hayden fell victim to the effects of social isolation– let him be the last person to lose a life to the virus without ever contracting it. Reach out to friends/coworkers/acquaintances living alone, in bad situations or who suffer from anxiety and depression. Reach out to the person who you don’t think could be struggling– chances are they are. Remember that although we are all in this together, we are all experiencing it differently. We have a responsibility towards one another that is tested now more than ever.