Last week was Loneliness Awareness Week – a campaign run by The Marmalade Trust to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation. Their aim is to normalise the conversation, after all, loneliness is a natural human emotion. This will help those struggling to reach out for support.
Since the pandemic, loneliness and isolation have become more widely felt, impacting people in many ways, including their mental health and wellbeing.
Many people’s lives dramatically changed when the first lockdown was announced in March last year. Faced with isolation, they could no longer go to work or school and meet with friends and family. For this reason, some spent weeks alone, with the only interaction being phone or video calls and a weekly trip to the supermarket. Others, who were already experiencing loneliness, may have felt more alone as a result. As the restrictions continued and loneliness increased, communities knew they had to make help easier to access.
Community Hubs were formed for those who needed support but had no one else to turn to. Local councils worked alongside local voluntary groups providing support accessing food, essential supplies, medicines and social contact. Community Hubs also provided effective signposting to mental health services and support to help people remain connected, such as:
- Age UK’s Community Emergency Response Team’s telephone befriending and prescription service (for over 55’s).
- ‘Check in and Chat’ volunteers via the NHS volunteer responder service. These volunteers provide short-term telephone support to those experiencing loneliness and isolation.
- Good Neighbour Schemes which offer befriending support. You can find details of local schemes on 1Space.
- Support offered by your local parish or town council (where present). Find a list of parish councils on our website.
As a result, the hubs have shown the positive impact a community minded approach can have on health and wellbeing. Therefore, the council will be working with partners to further develop this work in East Sussex.
A new Connection Campaign will be launched through a joint effort between partners to better understand loneliness and social isolation. This will look to reshape and improve local approaches and explore how communities across East Sussex can become better connected. An important part of this will be to engage with local people about what connection means for them. Collaborate CIC, a social change agency that helps tackle complex social challenges collaboratively, will be leading this work.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing loneliness and social isolation, please reach out. This may be through phone/video calls, by letter or even popping over for a socially distanced chat. It’s important we help each other stay connected!
For more information about community support and mental health and wellbeing services visit our East Sussex mental health directory.