Loneliness existed before the pandemic started, yet I feel it took the pandemic to bring this issue into focus. Many experts and researchers recognise that social connections are necessary for our mental and physical health and well-being. It is considered that social isolation and loneliness are important yet neglected social determinants of the health of older people.
Research also links social isolation and loneliness to various physical and mental conditions, including anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and other issues. Researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. On the flip side, changes in lifestyle through accessing and engaging in community groups can lead to positive health effects and reduce feelings of loneliness. While those experiencing chronic loneliness would likely require professional help, we can do our part to help others in our community through conversation and providing information on what is available vis-à-vis community groups.
Bris West Connect
About 2 years ago, John Scoble started a group called Bris West Connect. This group aimed to reduce loneliness and social isolation in the western suburbs of Brisbane, focusing on Indooroopilly, Taringa, Toowong, and St Lucia. One of the resources produced by this group was a spreadsheet listing resources (sporting groups, churches, etc.) in the western suburbs.
The resources listed in the spreadsheet include groups outside of the 4 suburbs previously mentioned suburbs. Rather than constraining any directory to a smaller geographical area, I have decided suburbs in Brisbane west, including SW, W and NW suburbs. To do otherwise would require defining some criteria to determine who is in or out based on geography.
In February 2022, John stepped down as facilitator for the group to pursue other social justice activities. After some discussions with John, I received a copy of the list of assets and results from a survey. Two things were evident in the survey results: (i) people wanted more information about the group and (ii) looking for some online presence. Before going any further, I would like to thank John Scoble for creating the original group, work done to date and for providing information that could be used in rebuilding a group.
I believe there are two distinct functions to be managed:
- provision of an online service. This service includes developing a directory of the available resources in the western suburbs of Brisbane. (I have some questions regarding criteria, if any, to be included in a directory.) The directory is located at http://community.warmpathways.com. Secondly, a Facebook group (briswestconnect) to connect with people who have an interest in helping in this area. This group could also be used by people who want information or might be lonely. This group is a place to provide additional information, request and share information, and anything else that would not fit on the website.
- an in-person function. Conversations! Sharing information about this group and the directory with friends and co-workers. Another aspect of this is making this group known to local businesses. For example, those working in personal service industries. For this function to work, information about loneliness must be compiled, flyers (advertising material) to be developed, etc. Another part of conversations is listening; if someone identifies as lonely or socially isolated, tell them about the group and directory.
While working, you are chatting with someone who has recently moved to Brisbane. (Their reason for moving could be work or study.) This person indicates they have not made any friendships since arriving in Brisbane. During the conversation, you might find out some things they like to do.
(Optional) Tell them about (or show) the Facebook group. You might also show them the directory on the website?
Here are some of the things I feel need to be considered (and in no order):
- adverting and flyers to be given to local businesses
- talking with local businesses about the group
- maintaining the website (generally) and addition of SSL
- adding and updating content on the website
- make sure the directory on the website is up to date
- applying for grants to make sure the above is possible
- administration of the group on Facebook
- events – I have ideas here and will leave them for next time
- specifying criteria for groups that can be included in the directory
- boundaries for discussion on Facebook group?
- production of newsletter
I am sure there is a lot I have missed as well. The Facebook group is also a space where I invite you to post and share your knowledge and experience or ask questions.
 Source: https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/loneliness-can-be-as-bad-for-your-health-as-smoking/2224574/