Connections with community

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Feeling connected is a fundamental human need, says Dorset Mind’s Abigail Hole, and one that should be thought about as winter arrives

As the colder weather sets in, it’s worth considering the support networks and connections you have near to home. Establishing routines and people who you can turn to, especially if you’re vulnerable to mental health challenges during the winter months, can be an important exercise. We all need someone to talk to from time to time.

Human Need
You may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – it is frequently used as an education theory which discusses a human’s basic needs for survival: food, warmth, security and safety, for example. Maslow’s theory also discusses psychological needs – our ‘motivations’ for survival including love, belonging and friendship.
Some may argue that this 1940s theory is outdated for modern day living, but the importance of human connection and acceptance remains a fundamental need, not just a desire, and is critical in prioritising your mental health this autumn and winter.

Loneliness
This year, during May’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Dorset Mind raised awareness of the impact of loneliness on mental health. Although not a mental health condition in itself, feeling lonely is extremely common across all age groups, races, and living situations. Mental health conditions also increase our chances of feeling lonely, or the risk of isolating ourselves.
Research conducted by the Office of National Statistics found that people who say they are never lonely are more likely to feel part of their community (Community Life Survey, 2018). By finding a sense of belonging within our community, we feel motivated to take care of other’s needs; this in turn boosts our own wellbeing.
It’s important to acknowledge how you’re feeling. We recommend taking note in a diary exactly when feelings of loneliness arise, as this can help detect patterns, which can be useful when finding support during the challenging times. For example, if you notice frequent feelings of loneliness during the weekend, or after work, you can plan and find support available during these periods.

Seeking Connection
Thankfully, there are numerous ways we can connect with others within our community. Although social media might not be to everyone’s cup of tea, it does provide a vast community of people to connect with, from local community groups or common interests to simply connecting with distant friends and family members.
It’s also worth checking community notice boards in cafes, gyms, libraries and even supermarkets for posters of low cost or free group activities.
If you would like to be a part of a community project and work as part of a team, volunteering can be an excellent way of connecting with others. At Dorset Mind, volunteers provide support across the charity based on their own preferences, from helping tend to our allotments to providing one-to-one phone calls with young people and adults who may be experiencing periods of loneliness themselves.

Talking to someone
If you are experiencing emotional or wellbeing challenges and need to talk with someone, Dorset Mind’s befriending service can help. It provides one-to-one support for adults through check-in phone calls, helping with goal setting, reducing social isolation and improving confidence and self-esteem.
Additionally, The Silver Line helpline is a free 24-hour telephone service for older people, offering friendship, conversation and support especially for those who may be feeling lonely or isolated. You can call it on 0800 4 70 80 90.
The Samaritans also provide a listening service through their 24 hours a day phoneline. You can talk through your concerns, worries and troubles – contact them on 116 123.

Dorset Mind wellbeing and mental health support: dorsetmind.uk
Find out more about Silverline: www.thesilverline.org.uk

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