Vital role of GPs and community groups hailed in tackling loneliness in men

Men should be encouraged to engage in meaningful social networks and develop supportive relationships to improve their mental health, a new study which examined loneliness and isolation in Leeds men has found.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 6:22 am
Participants in an activity run by Leeds Older People's Forum. Picture: Paula Solloway

Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF), the city council’s public health team and Leeds Beckett University found that GPs are a key part of both the recognition of the problem in their patients, and in directing them to relevant preventative and remedial services.

A new report, published in the Trends in Urology and Men’s Health journal, said the shielding policy for people with existing health problems during the coronavirus lockdown had acted as an “extreme form of social exclusion” and amplified concerns the authors had identified prior to the pandemic.

It found GPs could be play a vital role in referring men experiencing loneliness to one-to-one and group activities, as for “the majority” the solution to loneliness lies in their community.

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It highlighted best practice by LOPF’s Time to Shine lottery-funded project, for providing a supportive environments, offering activities with a practical outcome, those that enable men to share skills and for using language that makes men feel like they have something to offer.

Emeritus Professor of Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett University, Prof Alan White said: “The impact of social isolation and loneliness can be very damaging to both our physical and emotional health. It is very important that we are all aware of our own risk, and those of others, especially through the difficult times the lockdown has caused.”

LOPF chief executive Rachel Cooper said: “There’s a really strong grassroots network of third sector men’s groups in Leeds. They have been vital during Covid - a time when men have found themselves even more isolated.

“As a collective we are planning to provide more one-to-one intensive mental health support to men, support them and their families to get online and reach out to men through local businesses, something that has worked particularly well during lockdown, whilst continuing to raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on men and the groups available to connect and support them.”