Maybe never have mental health and wellbeing been so openly shared and discussed as the last two or three years, partly spurred by the pandemic, partly by movements for change. So Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) is in a very different position now – but as mental health issues have soared side by side with greater awareness, it is needed more than ever. The Week’s theme for 2022 is loneliness, with the challenge to “lift someone out of loneliness.”
What a challenge! It’s positve, hopeful, literally uplifting. It’s all about sharing and drawing together, which is likely to work two ways, enriching life for someone who’s lonely, yes, but also for whoever lifts them out of that loneliness.
I’m wondering just how I might lift someone out of loneliness? Could it be about a one-off chat, hello or smile? These could all help unlock loneliness’s door. But maybe more will be needed. Somehow this implies being there for the long haul – lifting someone clear of loneliness, not just giving them a glimpse of a way out. And obviously it’ll work differently for different people: do they welcome commitment or shy away from it? Do they even have time to connect regularly with others, or do work, illness or family get in the way of this?
Most of all, I’m wondering how to use art, music and/or nature to lift someone out of loneliness? My aim in setting up and running my arts for wellbeing initiative, Medley, is to share art, nature and music to boost wellbeing – and easing loneliness is clearly integral to wellbeing. So how do I, do we all, best make art, music and nature common ground to share to lift others, and each other, out of loneliness? I think diversifying, experimenting, trying different ways, is important – again because we are all so different and respond to different possibilities and opportunities.
What about connecting online, whether through Facebook groups or through group video calls? This may all seem fleeting and limited, but it’s a way to share, to respond, to connect. It’s a way to share an interest, to connect with others’ experiences and it widens up connection away from the local and the everyday to get to know people you’d never get to know any other way. And there’s little or no commitment.
As you experiment with art (for example) with others, it becomes a shared experience and adds other layers, as people go about the artwork differently, with new ideas. This may differ online or in-person, but either way opens up space to connect.
Art – or music or nature or dance or drama or writing – can motivate people to gather, either virtually or in-person, but it may not be the main focus. The opportunity to gather may be the most important. Combining a specific interest with the opportunity to talk, to share, maybe to support each other, becomes a way to enrich life on more than one level. Which is more beneficial, the company, the feeling of being in community, or the actual activity? Does this even matter?
There are so many questions! Do you have thoughts or responses to share? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002