The 9th-15th May is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the focus this year is on loneliness. Defined as a ‘subjective unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship’, loneliness can affect anyone and have a devastating impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. According to the Mental Health Foundation’s Loneliness and Mental Health Report, one in four adults in the UK report feeling lonely some or all of the time, and the stigma of loneliness can make it difficult to talk about. This week, we’re shining a light on the incredible team at Living Well UK, who provide free mental health services to residents in Birmingham and Solihull and have extensive experience of supporting people through feelings of loneliness and isolation.
About Living Well
The Living Well Group is comprised of Living Well UK and Living Well Consortium, whose combined activities provide a range of services including one-to-one counselling, culturally sensitive support, guided self-help, relaxation techniques, telephone counselling and other accredited talking therapies. Their vision is to deliver high quality health and wellbeing services through third sector organisations to improve the wellbeing of those affected by or at risk of mental health problems.
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) and Listening Services
Living Well UK is a leading provider of IAPT in the West Midlands. IAPT gives people the opportunity to access formal talking therapies, allowing them to speak to qualified therapists about their mental health and wellbeing and receive guidance to managing this in a more positive way. During 2020-2021, they saw over 10,000 clients for one-to-one treatment sessions, with 90% of clients reporting that they were ‘extremely satisfied’ with the service provided.
They also provide an additional listening service, enabling anyone to access up to 12 sessions of support for non-critical mental health needs, without the need for referral from a GP. Anyone affected by feelings of loneliness or isolation can reach out to their helpline at 0121 663 1217 for advice on how to manage their mental health.
Research by Age UK has found that people who do not, or cannot, use the internet are more likely to feel isolated from others. In 2021, Ofcom found that 1.5 million UK homes were still without internet access, a huge number of people facing digital exclusion. As our lives continue to become more digitally driven, this group are feeling increasingly left behind and isolated.
Digital support can help with loneliness by helping to connect people who are suddenly cut off from others, as we often saw over the course of the pandemic, and by providing connection to those who didn’t have it to begin with. Living Well help to tackle feelings of loneliness brought about by digital exclusion by providing vulnerable people with digital coaching support and devices that will enable them to connect with friends and family.
Online Wellbeing Sessions
In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of group exercise across the UK, as seen by ukactive’s Moving Communities Report. As well as the physical benefits, the social benefits of group physical activity, including developing connections and promoting a feeling of social inclusion, are becoming increasingly recognised. However, there are multiple factors that may limit people from attending group exercise activities in person and would preclude them from the many social opportunities it presents.
Therefore, as part of their online service, Living Well provides access to live exercise and creative classes online, which can be accessed from anywhere. Classes include seated exercises for all abilities, gentle yoga and arts and crafts. These classes are designed to give people the chance to access group activities in any setting, and benefit from the association between group physical activity and increased feelings of social connection and belonging.
The Living Well team works with several Secondary Schools across the West Midlands to support the mental health and wellbeing of pupils in Arden Academy, George Dixon Academy and Tile Cross Academy. They provide young people with access to a range of creative and physical activities including drawing, writing, drama, and dance to improve their mental and physical health.
Nabila Gardner, Grants and Programmes Manager at Living Well UK, commented:
“The mental health and wellbeing of our service users and the wider public will always be at the centre of what we do as a charity, and our services are shaped by the needs of the individuals and communities we work with.
As well as more formal counselling and therapeutic services, we provide physical activities and creative arts sessions to people of all backgrounds to support their mental health and overall wellbeing. Research has shown that physical activity releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good – boosting self-esteem and improving concentration, as well as reducing anxiety and depression. It’s also a great way to meet new people and make friends, which can help to tackle feelings of loneliness and isolation. Providing people with these opportunities is so important to us as a charity, and even more so during Mental Health Awareness Week.”
To find out more about Living Well and see their full portfolio of mental health services, you can visit their website here.
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