mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week – Tackling Loneliness

The focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. This topic is particularly relevant after 2 years of lockdowns and a growing culture of working and socialising from behind a computer screen rather than in person.  Loneliness can often be a catalyst for depression and social anxiety, so it is important that we, as social creatures, understand the importance of getting back out into the world after being locked away for so long and to tackle loneliness across all of society.

With computers and smartphones, the world is more connected than ever before and friends and family members are often just a few clicks away, but as the last 2 years have shown, computers are no substitute for face-to-face contact. The Government’s COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing surveillance report, published last month, saw that the percentage of UK adults reporting a clinically significant level of psychological distress rose from 20.8% in 2019 to 29.5% during the first lockdown in April 2020, before falling to 21.3% during the summer of 2020 when lockdown restrictions were more relaxed, and rising again to 27.1% during the winter 2020-21 lockdown.

 

What causes loneliness?

There is no single cause of loneliness, and anyone can be affected by it.  It can be triggered by anything from a bereavement or break-up to starting a new job or moving to a new area and not knowing anybody there. Some studies suggest loneliness is more prevalent in urban areas, while others find no evidence of a difference between urban and rural areas. Young adults and women are the 2 most likely groups to report loneliness, but this reporting may not be representative of actual cases as men and elderly people may be more likely to suffer in silence due to the supposed stigma surrounding mental health problems.

 

What can we do to fight it?

The NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ suggests 5 things anybody can do to fight loneliness:

  1. Keep in touch with those around you
  2. Join a group
  3. Do things you enjoy
  4. Share your feelings – but do not compare
  5. Help someone else feel connected

Keeping in touch with friends and family is important for everyone and it can be done in person, on the phone or through social media and messaging services.  It can be easy to drift away from old friends, especially during covid when there was no in-person meeting, so reaching out by phone and social media can lift you and remind you that those close to you are still there.

Everybody has hobbies and things they enjoy doing.  Whatever this is, there will be a group for it somewhere, whether it’s sports, arts, gaming or cooking.  Speaking to likeminded people with similar interests to you can lift you out of loneliness as there is common ground for you to bond over from day one.  It can sometimes be intimidating to join a new group without knowing anybody there, but everybody in that group stated in the exact same position as yourself and knows how daunting it can be.

As well as finding a group with likeminded people, you can also fight loneliness by doing things yourself.  Taking a bike ride or playing your favourite video game can lift you out of feeling down, even if you’re doing it by yourself.  The modern world can be full of pressure and anxiety, so taking time to de-stress and do something you love is the most important way to tackle mental health problems.

For many people, the most difficult of the 5 steps to tackle loneliness is to share your feelings.  The stigma attached to loneliness and depression can lead many people to suffer in silence, especially men and older people.  This can lead to more serious depression and social anxieties if loneliness is kept bottled up inside, so having a close friend or family member to talk to is always important.

Finally, helping someone else feel connected can boost your own spirits while also putting a smile on somebody else’s face.  If you’re feeling lonely, then chances are someone else is too, so reaching out to people you know and cheering them up can improve your own mood.

 

How are Elemental leading the way in tackling loneliness?

Tackling loneliness and depression are at the heart of what Social Prescribing means to Elemental, and many of the points in the NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ report outlined above link to our sense of healthy minds through activates you enjoy and keeping both mentally and physically fit.

We are delighted to announce that Elemental is now integrated with Rio Electronic Patient Record. As we are both now part of The Access Group, we have been able to provide an integration that will enable Mental Health Foundation Trusts to seamlessly refer patients on to social prescribing services.

This will bring a number of benefits to the Trusts, enabling them to save clinical time and refer people to impactful social prescribing services that can address social needs that lead to poor mental health. Mental health clinicians will also be able to monitor the health impact of the social prescription through accredited monitoring tools.

If you would like to find out more about this new integration, please email gayle@elementalsoftware.co.