The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Loneliness’ (you may recall last year it was Nature).
At Greengage, our awareness of this issue is not just for one week but throughout the year in our work on socio economics, social value, health and climate impacts, and community development. Indeed, during the last two years, it has also been an issue we have looked at internally in how we communicate as a team whilst being in our homes, isolated and remote from our office.
How is loneliness related to Greengage’s mission?
“…We deliver better places where businesses, communities and nature can thrive.” – we can only thrive when we create conditions for relationships to thrive, and feel there are people around who care about us. Design enhancements we recommend often include inclusive places for social gathering, being comfortable alone, and being able to see one another. These small interventions can make a big difference to the sense of ‘community’ and wellbeing in the places we live and work in.
Long before Covid-19 arrived, loneliness was fast becoming a leading crisis of the 21st century. We have long understood the crippling effects of loneliness: as bad for our health as 15 cigarettes a day, it robs us of perspective, leaving us cut out and cut off, less tolerant, less compassionate, and less embracing of the wider world.
Research by the British Red Cross at the end of 2020 showed that 39% of adults hadn’t had a meaningful conversation in two weeks, and 1 in 3 worry something will happen to them and no one will notice. Amongst many excellent insights, Dr Daisy Fancourt’s Covid Social Study has highlighted the disproportionate impact of loneliness on young people, women and BAME communities who have all been hit hardest by loneliness, anxiety, depression and other mental health effects from enforced isolation.
In a world reshaped by globalisation, automation, austerity and most recently by the pandemic and economic downturn, loneliness also encompasses feeling excluded from society’s gains, and feeling unsupported, powerless, invisible and voiceless. – this is from The Lonely Century by Noreena Hertz
In current times, our work at Greengage will be paying particular attention to how inclusive, connected and representative the projects we work on are. With the impacts of climate change also leading to increased isolation, this concern is both a social, climate and built environment concern for which we have the responsibility and potential to ‘design out’.
Resources: Loneliness – Every Mind Matters – NHS (www.nhs.uk) Loneliness Lab https://www.lonelinesslab.org/ (Using Design to Connect Us report especially)