Op-Ed: Loneliness is a Public Health Crisis

July 14, 2023 – SHREWSBURY — Loneliness is far more than just a sad feeling. It is a growing, silent epidemic that is eroding the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of people of all ages. In fact, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently declared loneliness and social isolation a “public health crisis” that demands our urgent attention. In the Surgeon General Advisory issued in May, Murthy warns that loneliness and isolation – deepened by the pandemic – can boost the risk for individuals to develop mental health challenges in their lives and lack of human connection can increase the risk for premature death by nearly 30 percent.

Further, the advisory reports that people with poor social relationships have a greater risk of stroke and heart disease. In other words, loneliness and isolation are jeopardizing our potential to live longer, healthier lives. As an organization committed to strengthening communities, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County believes it is our moral and social responsibility to help lead the fight in combating loneliness. We are especially concerned about the harsh toll that the pandemic took on the mental health of children and teens in our communities.

Our YMCA, which provides extensive mental health counseling and social services, has been on the frontline of providing young people the vital mental health support they need to overcome the impacts of isolation, loss, and other difficulties they experienced during the pandemic.

Together, with partners such as the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide and the Mental Health Association, we’ve focused on increasing mental health training for parents, educators, and other youth-serving organizations so they have the skills needed to recognize and respond to kids and teens during times of distress or crisis.

We know that when we work together, we can make a deeper impact in addressing loneliness among children, teens, adults, and seniors in our neighborhoods.

Laurie Goganzer is the president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, which delivers youth development, healthy living, and social service programs to over 36,000 people in central New Jersey.

About YMCA of Greater Monmouth County

YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is here for all – to empower youth and teens, improve health and strengthen community. Over the past five years, our Y has provided more than $5 million in financial assistance and subsidies to Y participants throughout greater Monmouth County. Our life-changing programs and services are anchored in eight communities: health and wellness facilities in Freehold Township, Old Bridge and Red Bank; an outdoor day camp in Wall; counseling and social service centers in Eatontown, Matawan and Middletown; a childcare center in Freehold Township; and integrated in nearly 100 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Named a New Jersey Top Workplace 2022 by New Jersey Advance Media, we’re based in Shrewsbury, NJ.

Learn more at www.ymcanj.org.