Lloyd I Sederer MD
As a boy, I worked in my family’s stationery store. My father, who lived through the Great Depression, woke me up early on weekend mornings to put the newspaper bundles together, then sweep the floors, and eventually handle the cash register. But beyond all these tasks, I learned what was most important: grit and support of each other.
Many decades later, those lessons have only carved themselves more deeply into my heart and head.
I became a doctor, a psychiatrist and then a public health doctor. My mission, taking care of patients as well as overseeing public mental health services, is to close the gap between what we know and what we do about emotional problems, and especially one that is pervasive: Loneliness.
Loneliness presents two big problems. First, loneliness kills. A long and healthy life cannot be achieved going it alone. Second, a social community, with the support it confers, is really hard to create and sustain.
Susan, a college freshman away from home, feels overwhelmed by her social isolation on campus and imagines she is the only one.
Ramon is in his 60s and was always active in the church community. But recent illness and disability leave him home-bound and disconnected from his faith community.
Tony and Sang have a teenage child they worry may be developing a mental illness. They are ashamed, blame themselves and don't know who and where to turn.
Joseph realizes he is drinking too much, and that it is hurting his work and relationships with his family and friends. He's heard about AA but can't bring himself to go to a meeting.
Prithi, in her twenties, wants to get over a recent romantic relationship. She knows there are others in the same place as she, who might be supportive - but she can't find them.
The examples go on. You likely can add some. One paradox of the social media explosion underway is that being on-line often is not a remedy for the isolation it seems to offer. We need to talk in ways that elude us in communities that seem full of people but lacking in connection.
While face to face contact and conversation may be ideal, reality has its way of getting in the way. Shame and shyness hold people back. Feeling you are the only one leaves a person isolated and more alone. Time is all too short, as work and family occupy us. Access to support can be a barrier, due to limited transportation, or mobility, or expense. Troubling past experiences opening up, for some, understandably inhibit trying again.
The question, then, is how can we create community, foster common experience and enable so many to not feel alone with whatever bedevils them?
Imagine by very cool voice technology, we now can protect a person's identity, without losing any of its nuance and emotion. Plus, no “likes”, interrupting, or criticizing. No names or places, either. Safe. Protected.
No one need feel alone.
This is our mission. Join us as we SessionTogether.
Lloyd Sederer MD