Mental Health Awareness Week, 9-15 May 2022: Tackling loneliness
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health. The week, which is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, is in its 22nd year their mission this year is to tackle loneliness together.
Throughout the week, the Mental Health Foundation are raising awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental health and the practical steps we can take to address it.
One of the ways Toynbee Hall is working to tackle loneliness in our community is through our Befriending Service for older and isolated people in Tower Hamlets.
Over the past two years, the importance of keeping people connected could not have been clearer – those who were already isolated and vulnerable, facing existing health, wellbeing and financial challenges, were also those who have been most impacted by the pandemic.
Despite the multiple challenges of the pandemic for a community that has faced some of the starkest impacts of Covid-19, our community advocates and befrienders have successfully connected with some of the most vulnerable and isolated locally, worked with them to build resilient cross community links, and put in place lasting networks that are reducing loneliness, increasing confidence, and improving mental wellbeing.
The befriending service supports older people in Tower Hamlets to build stronger relationships with one another and across generations. We match volunteer befrienders with isolated older or vulnerable people – most of whom live alone, without family nearby, or access to sustained community support. Befrienders call – and sometimes visit – on a weekly basis and are trained to provide support for people, in initially light touch ways, building a friendly connection with their match.
Now that we are able to open our doors again after a long period, we are able to offer physical activities in our Community Centre and we have a full schedule of free and inclusive activities for local people to socialise, pursue hobbies, improve their physical and mental health and get professional and expert support and advice.
Toynbee Hall is also the lead partner of LinkAge Plus, a network of community groups which offer outreach and activities for people over 50. Other community organisations such as Neighbours in Poplar, Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours and East London Cares offer befriending and support that can help people to feel connected and valued. Find out more about Linkage Plus.
Story of Change: William, a pensioner living close to Toynbee Hall in East London.
William is 70 years old and grew up on the Isle of Dogs.
He lives in a flat 100 yards from where he lived as a child. Sadly, for a long time, William suffered from loneliness, anxiety and depression. A simple trip to the shops was a real ordeal. When crisis hit William last year, as part of his treatment his GP referred him to us and our Phone Befriending service. Here, William was connected to a volunteer befriender for regular telephone chats as well as any help he needed arranging access to food, prescriptions and the range of activities and professional advice available at our Community Centre.
There are many others like William, from all of East London’s different communities, facing similar isolation and vulnerability. Within six months of us connecting to William, he has developed a real friendship with Josh, a local volunteer who keeps in regular contact; and throughout the year has come to regular painting and activity classes in our Community Centre.
it really has taken over the loneliness. I love it.”William
While we hope to make more people feel less lonely and improve mental health we know that the cost of living crisis and lasting trauma’s caused by the pandemic will have a serious impact on people’s mental health and feelings of loneliness. It’s vitally important that we continue build up our Befriending service, offer outreach and informal get togethers, provide more community activities for a broad cross section of local residents and provide opportunities for local people to have their say on the issues that impact on them.
Here you can find help and advice from the Mental Health Foundation on how to cope with loneliness and improve your mental health.
If you are interested in getting involved, visit our Volunteer page and see what opportunities are currently available.
This Mental Health Awareness Week we’re on a mission to let everyone living in loneliness know that their mental health matters.
Let’s tackle loneliness together.
Share your experience of loneliness on social media and say #IveBeenThere