Look after vulnerable this winter mental health experts warn

MENTAL health experts are calling upon people throughout Gloucestershire and Herefordshire to become ‘Winter Friends’ in a bid to help combat loneliness.

The aim of the Winter Friends campaign is to appeal to our sense of being neighbourly through small acts of kindness and showing interest to make life better for someone in our communities.

Research suggests that loneliness can have a significant impact on both physical and mental health.

Figures from the Mental Health Foundation indicate that four in 10 people in the UK have felt depressed due to loneliness.

This can become more of an issue in colder weather, and also around Christmas time, when many people seem to be meeting with friends and family to celebrate the festivities.

As well as depression, persistent loneliness can also cause stress, as well as poorer functioning of the immune and cardiovascular systems.

There is also evidence that loneliness makes it harder to control habits and behaviour leading to health problems.

Lonely middle-aged adults drink more alcohol, have unhealthier diets and take less exercise than the socially contented.

In fact winter can be a very hard time of year all round – with less daylight, less opportunity to get outdoors and exercise and big demands upon time and money.

The initiative is asking for 100,000 people to sign an electronic pledge that they will take time out this winter to look in on an elderly friends or neighbours to make sure they are warm and coping well.

Those who sign the pledge will receive free cold weather alerts and email tips throughout the winter to help them do their bit. To sign the pledge, visit: www.nhs.uk/WinterFriends

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