What Is Social Isolation?
Spending time alone is a good thing, and some people require more alone time than others. Introverts, for example, enjoy spending lots of time alone and can feel drained through social interaction, whereas extroverts prefer the company of others and are recharged through social interaction.
Social isolation is typically considered unhealthy when people spend excessive time alone, particularly when they no longer benefit from time spent alone. Socially isolating oneself can mean staying home for days, not talking with friends or acquaintances, and generally avoiding contact with other people. Any form of contact, however limited, is likely to remain superficial and brief, while more meaningful, extended relationships are missing.
Social isolation can increase a person’s feelings of low self-worth, shame, loneliness, depression, and other mental health concerns. Isolation itself is not a diagnosis, but it can be a symptom of depression, social anxiety, or agoraphobia. Other things that impair social skills can lead to isolation, though not necessarily by choice, for example; physical disabilities, homelessness or hoarding.
When deciding to tackle your isolation, remember to take it slowly. You could try:
- You can start by going somewhere where you won’t be expected to talk to people but still be around them, like going to the cinema.
- Talk to your GP, you may be able to do some social anxiety treatments to help you manage any other mental health challenges that may be holding you back.
- Catch up with a family member or friend and let them know how you’re feeling.
- You could find a class or group that involves a hobby you enjoy, and take along someone you know for support.
- Volunteer at a local charity or community project. Helping others is great for improving your mental health.
- Join an online community. This is a good start when meeting new people as going out to meet new people in person can be daunting.
Below is a list of some services that are here to help tackle social isolation and some of its causes.
- Mind - Cambridge MIND have a mentoring scheme through which volunteer mentors can assist existing service users towards achieving a particular goal/s. What exactly is involved is agreed together with the mentor, client and one of our project workers when they set up the mentoring agreement. The main point to take is that to access this mentoring scheme the individual would need to be accessing our services as a client initially. Mind also have support for loneliness which can be found here.
- Spice - Spice is a charity that has developed a system of Time Credits as a way of recognising and celebrating the time people give and encouraging more new people to get involved in volunteering. A Time Credit is ‘earned’ for an hour of volunteering and can then be ‘spent’ on an hour of something that person enjoys, such as the theatre, swimming or learning new skills. Spice has a wide network of places that accept Time Credits, from local opportunities in Cambridgeshire to national opportunities such as the Tower of London and the British Museum.
- Wintercomfort - Wintercomfort supports people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes in Cambridge. They offer a safe place where people can feel welcome and valued, basic amenities such as meals, showers and laundry facilities. The also offer a range of educational and recreational activities, opportunities to access other agencies (e.g. health service), legal advice and meaningful work and volunteering opportunities through our social enterprises.
- Make Do And Mend - A creative and cooperative outlet for people with mental health needs to socialise and learn new skills through strengths-based workshops which are low-cost, sustainable, flexible and environmentally friendly. There is £10 joining cost. A referral needs to be completed, but self-referrals are accepted. All activities are kept as low cost as possible. A donation is asked for tea’s and coffees at activities attended.
Mental health challenges are common but help is available and with the right support many people recover completely. Check out our Support Services Page for lots of services who are local and national!
*Some information gathered from www.nhs.uk and the services listed.