SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- With a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors, San Mateo County has become the first county in America to recognize loneliness as a public health emergency.
"We have 45% of the people who find themselves being lonely. Who suffer from loneliness," said Supervisor David Canepa.
Canepa introduced the resolution he hopes will spur further action.
He says since the pandemic, county statistics have shown loneliness explode among the local population.
A trend the country's surgeon general, says is also being seen nationwide.
"This is a problem that has been building for decades in our country. COVID certainly worsened it and poured fuel on the fire. But that fire was burning before," said Dr. Vivek Murthy.
In addition to the county-wide resolution, Canepa is also sending a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
In it, he asks the governor create a new minister of loneliness position for the state.
Canepa says while San Mateo County is taking the charge to tackle loneliness here in the U.S., other places like Japan and the U.K. have already taken steps to address the epidemic in their own countries.
If approved, the minister of loneliness would work to enact policies to help improve not just loneliness, but also mental health in general among the public at large.
Creating resources for those most in need.
It's an idea supported by clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Zorbas, who says poor mental health can often lead to poor physical health too.
"If we're feeling depressed we often have stomach pains, or body aches, muscle aches, headaches, migraines, I mean you name it," Dr. Zorbas said.
Even though the county's resolution is revolutionary in many ways, Canepa says he thinks its just the first step in a long journey ahead.
"What we want to do is build on that. But we can't build on it if we don't make the investments," he said.
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