Who are we?
We are the Mental Health Improvement Team based at Commonwealth House in Glasgow. We support colleagues in mental health across the 6 local Health and Social Care Partnerships which cover Greater Glasgow and Clyde. These include Glasgow City, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde.
Representatives' from each Health Improvement Team in these areas meet together as a Child and Youth Mental Health Improvement Network group.
We address mental health improvement for children and young people using the mental health improvement and early intervention framework for Greater Glasgow and Clyde. This framework was formally endorsed by the Child and Maternal Health Strategy group in 2012. The 6 key elements of the framework are used to guide our work across these areas.
Why Child and Youth Mental Health?
70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
A report by University of St Andrews on the health of Scottish youth has found declining mental health patterns among 13-15 year old girls. The report found a wide gender gap in mental health with substantially more girls than boys reporting psychological stress, health complaints (including nervousness and low mood). This gender gap is especially wide for 15-year olds.
Similar findings have been found in the 2014-15 Glasgow City Schools HWB Survey (pdf).
The Secondary Schools Counselling Service (provided by Life Link) indicates that in the last year, the most common presenting issues by secondary age pupils for Counselling were:
Self Esteem 49%
Family Issues 52%
Depression (Non clinical) 43%
Bereavement Issues 40%
Self Harm 29%
It is said that one in every five persons are lonely with people not having anyone to talk to or spend time with. A figure from Age UK that Over 1 million older people haven’t spoken to a friend, neighbour or family member for at least a month, that’s a shocking statistic.
Loneliness and lack of companionship makes people more vulnerable which affects physical and mental. Loneliness and chronic loneliness and feelings of alienation can be extremely detrimental to health. It can induce alcoholism, make a person suicidal and increase the risk of mental health disorders. Loneliness and depression are closely related.
We often see loneliness as an ‘age’ thing i.e., amongst the elderly, but loneliness doesn’t discriminate. In 2010 the Mental Health Foundation found loneliness to be a greater concern among young people than the elderly. The 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed were more likely to feel lonely often, to worry about feeling alone and to feel depressed because of loneliness than the over-55s.
Divorce, loss and grief, bereavement, bullying etc can all contribute to loneliness.
What (if anything) does your organisation / team / department currently do to tackle loneliness?
There are a lot of initiatives around but provision is still patchy. Some examples in the GGC area are –
In Renfrewshire they are carrying out some Qualitative research using peer researchers and they have the support from UWS in the hope of having a campaign to raise awareness and tackle the issues of loneliness in Renfrewshire – using emotional touchpoint techniques – research should be completed before end of financial year.
Adult Seasons for Growth, the programme focuses on peer support and aims to decrease isolation in adults experiencing loss/change and bereavement, which can often be a lonely time for many.
Thriving Places work in some of our communities in Glasgow such as Parkhead/Dalmarnock/Camlachie is based on reducing loneliness and isolation. All our programmes bring people together for a reason (family support, homework clubs, summer holiday provision, peer support group, bereavement/remembrance café, tea dance etc) but the primary driver is to increase social connections. Hopefully this then leads to better social support (and reduction of stigma through getting to know others in the same boat and being able to talk about it) but also to collective action cookery, redeveloping an outdoor space, men's health 'manathon').
The Barrhead Men’s Shed. This is a group of around 30 mostly older men, and some women, who have been running a Men’s Shed project in Barrhead, Words like ‘godsend’ ‘lifesaver’ and ‘sanctuary’ have been used to describe the shed – however they have come into some difficulties recently due to leasing issues and the building in which they met has been taken off them until issues are resolved. They are currently still meeting but in a coffee shop as they valued the social connections that the shed gave them.
What should we be doing?
We shouldn’t medicalise loneliness rather we should support individuals to be part of their community, to reduce loneliness and increase community connectedness – advertising and promoting some of the initiatives outlined above. We should be raising awareness of the issue of loneliness to the public and policy makers. Make more use of community assets to tackle loneliness – physical and people ie are there buildings that can be used to create ‘ mens sheds’ etc – break down some of the red tape that surrounds some of these letting issues. Building network of supporters taking action locally – befriending networks - ensure age appropriate – not always older people.
To see the full interview please see video link below: