According to the World Health Organization, the social isolation, fear of disease and death, and strained socio-economic circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to an estimated 25% global rise in depression and anxiety.

The Duquesne University School of Nursing will delve into the dire impact of isolation related to the pandemic during its 13th annual McGinley-Rice Symposium, which focuses on social justice for vulnerable populations.

The Face of the Person Who is Socially Isolated, slated for Thursday, Oct. 20, and Friday, Oct. 21, has drawn national and local experts and professionals who will discuss this very real issue that has affected so many.

"Social alienation has been with us for a long time, but like many things, COVID unmasked it," explains Duquesne Nursing Professor Sister Rosemary Donley, S.C. "It's more than loneliness. In fact, you can be socially isolated in the middle of a crowd."

Donley, who is the Jacques Laval Chair for Justice for Vulnerable Populations at Duquesne and coordinates the yearly event, says that young children and older people were the most affected by social isolation during the hardest times of the pandemic.  

"Children need to be with others-they need to be in school or in daycare. They need social stimulation," Donley says. "They don't do well sitting at a computer trying to do much more than play games. And the younger the child was (during the pandemic), the more difficult it was."

The elderly were isolated either in their homes or long-term care settings, where they weren't allowed visitors. "They didn't see their sons, daughters or grandchildren for two years," Donley says. "Or maybe they only got to see them through a window. Research now indicates that the isolation was hard for teens-they missed their peers, girlfriends and boyfriends, and having lunch and just talking together."

Some of this year's topics include A Second Look at Dementia; The Connection Between the Virus and the Experience of Social Isolation; Pregnancy, Birth and Isolation During the Pandemic; and The Isolation of Health Care Heroes: The Immigrant Nurse Experience.  

The McGinley Rice Symposium is open to the public. Visit www.duq.edu/mcginley-rice-symposium for more information, including cost, schedule, continuing education credits and more.

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October 11, 2022