• Pen Pal Project to Write Away Isolation: An IRB-approved Project Aimed at Decreasing Isolation During a Global Pandemic

      Barfield, Kailey; de la Cruz, Jennifer; Lepp, Erin F. (2021)
      As the COVID-19 pandemic radically upended the daily lives and routines of many people, those considered vulnerable faced increased physical isolation due to efforts of increased protection. While interventions such as social distancing have been appropriate to maintain physical health, mental health has taken the brunt of the pandemic. To create connections while maintaining safe physical distance, a letter writing project was created between Mercer Physician Assistant Students and volunteers in the community. This project was created for the Paul Ambrose Scholars Program in which students in medical professions are selected to design a community health project focusing on one of the Leading Health Indicators (LHI) of Healthy People 2020. Suicide was the LHI chosen for this project. As depression increases among elderly, isolated individuals during the pandemic, the risk of suicide increases as well. Letter writing is a cheap, easy way to maintain emotional connections with others despite social distancing guidelines. This project has been IRB approved and included nineteen Mercer Physician Assistant (PA) students and nineteen volunteer letter recipients throughout the United States. A screening tool was used to assess depression levels of volunteer letter recipients both prior to and after receiving letters from PA students over the course of 4-5 months. This poster is a summary of the research project.