Can social isolation caused by physical distance in people with psychosis be overcome through a Phone Pal?Eur Psychiatry. 2020 05 22; 63(1):e61.EP
The current pandemic has forced many people into self-isolation and to practice social distancing. When people are physically isolated and distant from each other, technology may play a fundamental role by enabling social connection and reducing feelings of loneliness caused by this prolonged social isolation. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many mental health services worldwide have had to shift their routine face-to-face outpatient appointments to remote telepsychiatry encounters. The increased pressure on mental health services highlights the importance of community-led health-promotion interventions, which can contribute to preventing mental illness or their relapses, and to reduce the burden on health services. Patients with psychosis are particularly socially isolated, have sedentary lifestyles, and commonly face stigma and discrimination from the general population. At the same time, patients with psychosis value technology, are interested in, use and own smart-phones to digitally connect, and are satisfied with their use. Thus, among psychosocial interventions, a helpful resource may be "Phone Pal," a complex intervention which facilitates remote communication between volunteers and socially isolated patients with psychosis through different smart-phone tools. While "Phone Pal" has been originally developed for people with psychosis, it may also be useful to the wider population, helping to overcome the social isolation caused by physical distancing, particularly in these times of widespread isolation. "Phone Pal" may be a potential public health resource for society, providing important support to those that may need it the most, and possibly benefit most from it.