A Case for Reaching Out

In the age of social distancing, it’s important that we don’t isolate from our friends


Fordham students, like other college students across the United States and throughout the world, have been sent home and are doing what they can to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic has introduced us all to “flattening the curve,” Zoom and, of course, social distancing.

The way social isolation impacts mental health has been written about extensively, including in The Observer. The Fordham community faces some unique challenges in dealing with this distancing. Overall, about 60% of Fordham students come from outside of New York state (this article was written in Texas) and 14% are international. These numbers are much higher than most other universities across the country.

With such large portions of the university population spread around the globe, it is easy to see how the physical distance between all of us could lead to feelings of isolation and harm our mental health. Not only have we all been sent away from campus and those we’ve grown to love, we’ve been sent back to places where connections to others may now be few and far between.

Of course, we would have been distancing ourselves anyway, regardless of whether or not we had friends closer to us. However, there is something disquieting about being so physically distant from everyone in our strongest social networks.

It feels so easy to disconnect and be alone. Everyone feels so far away. Before all of this happened, it was almost impossible to go anywhere without seeing someone you knew. I mean, at Fordham Lincoln Center, we have, like, three hallways. We were all forced to be social. Now it takes effort — and energy — to do so.

Understanding this reveals what we need to do to stay mentally healthy and break our isolation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently changed the way it has been describing actions we should take to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Previously, we were all told to “socially” distance, but in a March 20 press briefing, the WHO began using the term “physical distancing” in order to emphasize the importance of maintaining social connections throughout the pandemic. The worry is that by telling people to socially distance, they may close themselves off from friendships and other loved ones.

Times like these are when we need to reach out to those we know and love the most. There are going to be people hurting through all of this. Those who face sickness and those who face isolation will deal with pain. Those who get sick bear the worst of the pandemic and that cannot be forgotten. Obviously, those of us who stay physically healthy are privileged and should count ourselves lucky.

Concerns over mental health should not be discounted, though. And there are ways the Fordham community can come together despite our physical distance. Doing so is the only way to ensure everyone in the community knows that others are still there for them, and that people still care.

Reach out to those you care about. It can be hard to text first. To reach out when we are physically distant can feel wrong. How dare you let someone know that you think about them and care? But it’s important. Text them. Call them. Celebrate birthdays and accomplishments. Even join the Fordham Minecraft server. Just because we are physically separated does not mean we need to socially isolate. Checking up on each other and maintaining connections in any way we can is the best way to make it through this.