COVID-19 has significantly altered the lives of millions of people in Australia and billions globally. Major governments, including ours, have introduced striking actions to curtail the spread of the virus which includes lockdown measures. Although such measures are designed to stop the transmissibility of the virus, prolonged and/or intermittent periods of isolation may exacerbate mental health issues such as loneliness. In a recent article published in Frontiers in Psychology, I outline the adverse mental health effects of isolation and contend that COVID-19, in addition to being an epidemiological issue, ought to be also treated as a psychological crisis. Loneliness has consistently been linked to adverse mental health outcomes, which includes increased risk of distress, depression, and suicidality, especially among men.
Additionally, loneliness also disproportionately affects men as they are socially expected to conform to dominant masculine norms such as self-reliance and stoicism. Such narratives put tremendous pressure on men to act independent and in control of their emotions and life. This not only makes it arduous for men to seek support but also renders developing connections challenging and difficult. This is particularly important as loneliness is considered to be one of the crucial affective components that drives male suicide. Therefore, novel approaches and narratives must be considered to help men develop meaningful and deeper social connections, without any negative judgement.
One approach that people tend to use during periods of isolation and loneliness (such as COVID-19 lockdowns) is use social networking platforms (SNP). The proliferation of SNP has made it easier to communicate with others around the world. However, research examining the association between use of SNP and wellbeing report increased levels of depression and loneliness among the users, who tend to be overwhelmingly men. This presents a conundrum - on one hand men are more likely to be adversely affected by loneliness, and on the other hand, using SNP has been found to exacerbate loneliness. So, what are men expected to do during times of isolation and loneliness (such as the current pandemic)?
Considering men give and receive less social support on social media than women, messaging around mental health issues must be designed and delivered differently for men. This could be achieved by conducting research into how men view and make digital connections and how that affects their mental health. This knowledge would also assist in ascertaining how social media messaging and narrative could be developed and targeted to help men make meaningful and long-lasting connections.
Psychoeducation tools; online forums, communities, and courses; and virtual help groups could be created for men where they can share and learn from others’ experiences, thereby normalising emotional expression and interpersonal connections. These efforts will not only help men gain insight into how their behaviour affects their mental health, but also aid health consultants working with them to help them regulate and engage in help seeking behaviours. This is especially pertinent in the current age of increasing loneliness and associated poor mental health, especially for men.
About the Author:
Dr Dev Roychowdhury is a scholar, researcher, and consultant in mindfulness, mental health, and performance psychology. He is currently serving as the Research Director and Chief Consultant at DR ACADEMY. He obtained a doctorate degree in psychology and has accrued proficient lecturing, research, and industry experience. Dr Dev Roychowdhury has lectured at Monash University and Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. He has also served as a uniformed and commissioned Army Officer in the Australian Defence Force.
In addition to academic pursuits, Dr Dev Roychowdhury is also passionate about transforming lives. He consults with individuals, groups, and organisations to help them achieve their goals and flourish in their chosen endeavours. For consultation, collaboration, and more information, please connect with him on:
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