Could this be a year when we really get to grips with what is meant by mentally healthy communities? In the past two years, the experience of the Covid pandemic has surely highlighted the importance of neighbourliness, kindness, community action and social cohesion for our collective mental health. It has also exacerbated the impact of already existing social problems such as poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse and social care support for those living with illness, disabilities and emotional distress.
An overwhelming issue experienced by many is that of loneliness and isolation, especially when dealing with any of these social problems. The Mental Health Foundation has identified loneliness as the theme for this years Mental Health Awareness week in May, and reducing social isolation has to be one of the major steps towards a mentally healthy society.
Social connections are hugely important for our mental health, but its also possible to feel lonely even in the company of others especially when struggling with difficult circumstances or feelings. Sometimes loneliness can be eased simply through more social contact, other times its more about seeking an understanding from others, perhaps those who have experience of similar issues.
There is another less obvious prescription – that of using creativity to reduce your sense of isolation. As Martha Beck wrote:
“In the face of great sorrow or joy, love or loss, many human beings who went before me learned to express themselves sublimely through clumsy physical things: paint, clay, words, the movement of their bodies.”https://marthabeck.com/2012/11/when-you-feel-lonely
She advises us to seek art in any time or place, in any form, to connect with our deepest feelings, to find solace or inspiration, comfort or joy. Offering more opportunities for people to be creative in the broadest sense has always been a core mission for the Good Mental Health Cooperative, and in 2022 this takes on even more significance as we collectively seek to recover from the pandemic.
I’m not a great fan of New Year resolutions but for 2022 our aim is to help rebuild mentally healthy communities through social connection and creativity, and reduce loneliness and isolation where-ever possible.
If you’d like to help us with this aim, please do fill in this survey which we’ve been promoting for the last couple of months.