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Mental Health Awareness Week Tackles Loneliness

Published: 09/05/2022
lonely boy sitting on bench alone

Community support services Live Well Kent and Kent Sheds are reminding residents of the help available as this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) highlights loneliness.

Live Well Kent is a network of community mental health and wellbeing support services, managed by charities Porchlight and Shaw Trust for KCC and the Kent and Medway CCG. The Kent Sheds programme was set up to combat loneliness, social isolation and mental health problems.

Information on this support, along with the Every Mind Matters online quiz and mind plan is available online to help with tips towards self-care to improve your mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Emma Andrews from Shaw Trust said: "Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, we will be supporting the Better Health: Every Mind Matters campaign by facilitating a series of coffee mornings and interactive activities - all based around the Six Ways to Wellbeing and designed to lift people out of loneliness."

"We have activities taking place both online and in person at various locations across the county. All are welcome, so if you're interested then visit the Live Well Kent website or search ‘Shaw Trust Wellbeing’ on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and join us to explore how you can help to combat loneliness.”

Porchlight’s head of mental health services, Julia Hargreaves, says: “Lots of people feel lonely, for lots of different reasons. If you’re feeling lonely or cut off, Live Well Kent & Medway has services to help you.”

She adds: “Loneliness can affect your health and wellbeing, causing anxiety, depression, low energy and stress. Reaching out to us can allow you to talk things through with an experienced support worker. They will work with you to help you think about things you could do, taking steps to improve how you’re feeling – whether that’s building your confidence, developing meaningful connections within the local community, finding new hobbies or rekindling old ones. 

“You can also use the Live Well Kent & Medway website to access a range of support services in your area. These include local activities that allow you to find new hobbies and meet new people, and support groups where you can talk about your experiences with people in similar positions.”  

better health, every mind matters graphic that reads: Lift someone out of loneliness

There are currently 30 Kent Sheds across the county which are always encouraging new members to join. The Birchington Man Shed is just one example of a welcoming place where people can meet to create social links, find peer-to-peer support, share and learn skills, and support each other in terms of their health and employment. Bob Girardot, Secretary for the Birchington Man Shed said: “It can appeal to any man over 50 from any race, gender or background. We are a very friendly bunch with lots of banter, gentle micky taking etc that usually happens when you get a bunch of blokes together. We drink a fair amount of tea and the occasional cake or biscuit may be consumed!

“We run, small woodworking projects, woodturning, electronics, model railway, Scalextric, computer, bike repairs and we try to accommodate what the general members want. Occasionally they bring in their own items to repair. It means a fun place full of comradeship and friendships.”

Kent County Council Director of Public Health Anjan Ghosh said: “We are still seeing the impact of Covid-19 and lockdowns – loneliness is a major issue for many but we do have some fantastic online and community support to help.

“Organisations across Kent and nationally continue to try to address this together and you can find a wealth of information plus online tips and advice including the Every Mind Matters online tool.”

Dr Jihad Malasi, NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group’s GP Clinical Lead for Mental Health, said: “Feeling lonely is something all of us can experience at any point and it can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.

“The online Mental Wellbeing Information Hub has wealth of information about services and support available to help you including social prescribing link workers. They help connect people to community groups, voluntary and statutory services for practical and emotional support. Find out more at Kent and Medway CCG.”

There is also mental health support available 24/7 from trained counsellors through the Release the Pressure helpline and text service in Kent and Medway. Text the word Kent to 85258 or call 0800 107 0160 for free confidential support at any time.