A group of GP surgeries in the Lower Swansea Valley is asking its patients for any suggestions for initiatives that may help combat loneliness.
The move, initiated by the Cwmtawe Cluster, coincides with Mental Health Awareness week (9-15 May).
The Mental Health Foundation, which oversees the week, has chosen loneliness as its theme this year and is encouraging people across the country to reflect on loneliness and how it impacts mental health.
Loneliness has become more of an issue during the pandemic with so many people experiencing isolation.
The cluster, comprising Cwmtawe Medical Group, Strawberry Place Surgery and Llansamlet Surgery, also recognises loneliness as a major threat to people’s general health and well-being with long-term loneliness being linked to problems such as depression and anxiety.
As a result, patients are being asked to write down any ideas that may help tackle loneliness, and to post them in suggestion boxes places in pharmacies and surgeries in Clydach, Morriston (Strawberry Place, Sway Road and New Cross), and Llansamlet surgeries.
Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster Lead, said: “The cluster will be aiming to get suggestions from patients in GP surgeries and pharmacies on what initiatives could be put in place to help overcome loneliness across Cwmtawe.
“We are putting suggestion boxes in practices and encouraging people to put pen to paper and suggest what community activities they would like to see introduced locally.
“We are already supporting dance classes for the over-65s, which as well as being an excellent way of improving your general fitness, offer an excellent way of having fun and socialising.
“And we hope to launch our Parkrun next month, with lots of opportunities for volunteer stewards available alongside the regular chance to walk or run 5k each week with friends new and old.”
Dr Iestyn Davies, a GP with Cwmtawe Medical Group, said: "Unfortunately loneliness appears to be a growing problem, thanks in no small part to the pandemic and an aging population.
"Loneliness can lead to an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.
"It is vital, therefore, that we do our best to address this problem here in Cwmtawe."
Mark Rowland Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We hope this year’s theme of loneliness will strike a chord with many of us who felt lonely and struggled throughout the Covid pandemic.
“Millions of us experience loneliness from time to time. We know that some people are at higher risk of experiencing loneliness and the evidence shows the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems.
“Loneliness deserves more attention and we’re calling on everyone who has struggled as a result of being lonely to share their experiences. We must work together - as individuals, as a society and through government policy - to reduce loneliness and prevent mental health problems by investing in welcoming, social spaces and new community initiatives.”
For more information about this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week visit mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw or join the conversation on social media using #IveBeenThere and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek