Connection: tackling loneliness and social isolation among our clients

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

With the recent lockdowns and social restrictions exacerbating loneliness and social isolation amongst vulnerable groups, Turning Point has made radical changes to how it is staying connected with clients.

Evidence from 148 studies on the relationship between social relationships and mortality risk concludes strong social connection gives us a 50% chance of living longer. Other headlines from an ever-growing evidence-base include: loneliness increases the risk of premature mortality by 26%; has a detrimental impact on the genes that regulate immune function and contribute to early cognitive decline and dementia, heart disease and stroke.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem of loneliness/social isolation identified in the original Marmot Report over a decade ago. In the follow-up Building Back Fairer – The Covid-19 Marmot Review, lockdown and social restrictions were identified as disproportionately impacting those already socially isolated, while also affecting groups not previously considered to be at high risk, particularly young people with low educational and income levels and students.

The clients we support across Turning Point – in substance misuse, mental health and learning disabilities – are among the most vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. Feeling stigmatised or discriminated against, losing social/employment/family networks all contribute to low self-esteem, poor mental and physical wellbeing and substance abuse.

However, although often mentioned in the same breath, social isolation and loneliness are not the same thing, and this informs how we support our clients.

People can be surrounded by other people yet still feel lonely because relationships with others are not what we’d like them to be. Social isolation is a lack of social connection, a lack of others. One can lead to the other or occur at the same time.

The difference has been brought into sharper focus during the pandemic and the wholesale shift to maintaining or building connections remotely online. It has demanded swift and radical changes to how we have kept connected with our clients and kept them connected with others.

In London, our DAWs substance misuse service transformed its Get Connected programme to Stay Connected. This included equipping clients with mobile phones, tablets and laptops, and providing instructions and telephone coaching on how to set up and access groups and ETE support from the service as well as local and international mutual aid group meetings.

Read the full blog post here.

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We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

This content was created by Turning Point

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