In 2023, the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory sounding the alarm regarding an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. Please read that again: An epidemic of loneliness and isolation. That is profound and truly heartbreaking.
The report outlines the significant and profound impacts of social disconnection, including physical health, mental health, and economic impacts, both individually and in the country as a whole.
As I read the report, I felt that impact in my bones. And at The Conflict Center, as a staff, we discussed the ways we experience disconnection and isolation around us. There are many aspects that contribute to the root causes and manifestations of this epidemic, including that trust in one another is low, polarization is high, our social networks are smaller and social participation is declining.
In short, we are disconnected from one another. Disconnection is on display every day in our social media feeds, on the news channels, in angry interactions in the checkout line and in political discourse. You may see it in how colleagues avoid having hard conversations or in a friend who blocks you. It is not hard to see examples of polarization and distance in our society.
While TCC refers to our work as individual skill-building, the skills taught are meant to do more than that. Yes, participants are often gaining the opportunity to individually build, hone and practice skills, but these skills are for the purpose of engaging with others. Skills to strengthen relationships. Skills to be in community. Skills for connection.
At our heart, The Conflict Center is in the work of building connection:
- To understand that disagreement and everyday conflict do not need to lead to avoidance, discord or violence.
- To foster school and work environments that value the importance of talking through challenges and fostering authentic sharing.
- To explore the building blocks of healthy relationships and safe environments.
- To build accountability models that center each person’s humanity.
And we are eager to understand, foster, explore and build connection with you! That’s why we are committing to connection in 2024. Connection will be our theme throughout the year, and we will be offering our community resources, programs, and opportunities across our platforms to encourage this connection.
We are excited for you to “Commit to Connect” with The Conflict Center and with one another this year!
-Beth Yohe, Executive Director of The Conflict Center