Image provided by Centre for Ageing Better

Jessica Duffy, Good Practice Mentor at LOPF (Leeds Older People’s Forum), shares her thoughts on the link between loneliness and mental health in time for Loneliness Awareness Week.

Loneliness and mental health

Do you know it’s Loneliness Awareness Week from 12 to 18 June?

I imagine some of you do because there is already some recognition of the relationship between loneliness and mental health as both “bi-directional and cyclical”, according to a DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) report produced last year.

In some ways, this sort of report is helpful. The statistics and data gathered for the report can help fundholders and policymakers better understand how loneliness affects people and deliver help and funding where needed.

On the other hand, for those of us living out here in the real world, it may feel like common sense science.

All “bi-directional and cyclical” means is that being lonely can trigger episodes of mental ill health or that struggling with a mental health issue can make you feel isolated, and you may become lonely as a result. That feels intuitive.

Many of us can probably think of friends or family for whom this seems obvious – maybe someone who found it difficult to stay connected during the pandemic and now finds they have become very anxious in social settings or feels quite depressed. Equally, there will be people experiencing mental ill health who are socially isolated and who feel lonely for different reasons.

Time to Shine programme

LOPF (Leeds Older People’s Forum) worked with Leeds Mind during the Time to Shine programme. 

Time to Shine tested ways of reducing social isolation and loneliness for older people. Leeds Mind worked with older people (aged 50 and over) who had experienced mental ill health, and they initially hoped that providing people with one-to-one introductions to social groups would help people make connections and feel less lonely.

But it turned out this wasn’t enough. What they found worked was to help people first meet up socially with others who would understand their experiences. These were social meetings in ordinary places where there was no pressure to talk about mental health, but everyone knew they could and would be supported by others if they wanted to share their experiences.

Read more about Time to Shine and LOPF’s involvement in this work.

You can also read how other partners in the national Ageing Better programme worked with people to support their mental wellbeing, including other projects.

Online training for staff and volunteers

Loneliness Awareness Week is created and hosted by the Marmalade Trust, a leading loneliness charity for all ages. This year it’s all about making connections.

As part of it, the Good Practice Mentor team (that’s me and my colleague Jo from Camden) will be running some great online training for staff and volunteers who want to know more about how loneliness can affect people and how to connect with those who don’t usually like to engage with services.

You can see and book on this collection of events on Eventbrite, they are all free, and you might make some connections with colleagues: Loneliness Awareness week from the GPM team | Eventbrite

Connect with the Marmalade Trust this Loneliness Awareness Week

If you’re feeling lonely or anxious, I can’t do better than suggest you connect with the Marmalade Trust. They understand that any of us could feel lonely at any age for all sorts of reasons and can offer reassuring and helpful advice

Learn more about what loneliness is and how it can affect your wellbeing on MindWell, including ideas for ways to connect with yourself and others, a daily planner resource and a blog from someone who’s been there.

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