This Mental Health Awareness week, we are reflecting on new research by the Mental Health Foundation. The report found that loneliness can affect everyone from time to time. But there are certain risk factors that can increase chances of loneliness that can impact our mental health.

Barriers prevent people from connecting with others

A theme that emerged from the report was a combination of practical and psychological barriers can contribute to loneliness.

“While some people face practical barriers to connecting – such as poor public transport, no free time because of caring responsibilities or a lack of affordable or accessible activities – for others, the barriers are psychological. People need support to overcome these barriers – for example, to overcome negative thought patterns about themselves that lead them to avoiding social situations.”

Making connections, inclusion on the playground

For carers who have family members with a disability, sensory, or complex needs, inclusive playgrounds can provide that opportunity to connect with others. There are many factors that contribute to an inclusive play space. Play equipment that provides a range of play opportunities is just one factor. When play equipment considers the needs of children with different abilities, in can help create an inclusive environment not only for children but for parents and carers too.

Support people who are feeling lonely or excluded

A play space that has inclusive play equipment across the entire scope of the area eliminates segregation, creating opportunities for parents to engage with each other.  Support people who may be feeling lonely by reaching out and making a connection.

  • Try not to judge

Remember, loneliness is a common feeling. The stigma around loneliness is a huge barrier to the kind of open and genuine conversations that can help. 

  • Make groups welcoming

It’s important to be as welcoming as possible, as people feeling lonely may be shy or nervous. 

  • Listen and show understanding

Help them feel heard and understood by showing compassion.

Inclusive public spaces

Public playgrounds are social spaces that can inadvertently exclude some people if there is no infrastructure or play equipment to support their needs.

That’s why we support the Mental Health Foundation’s call for a UK-wide policy to address loneliness in society. A policy that focuses on, pro-social public spaces that support people’s health and wellbeing.

“The governments should embed ‘universal design principles’, which guarantee usability by the greatest number of people, and engage with seldom-heard groups to help build meaning and purpose into public spaces for these communities.”

Playgrounds have a huge potential to provide opportunities for everyone to feel included in their communities. The right play equipment can contribute to breaking down barriers, making connections and building relationships.

View our Dynamic range here.

Help parents fight for change

A new report by the disability equality charity, Scope, states that families are consistently faced with poor experiences when accessing public spaces and playgrounds.

Support Scope’s Let’s Play Fair campaign. Click the link below to sign an open letter to The Government to invest in an inclusive playground fund to make every playground a place for disabled children and their families.

Click here for help and advice from The Mental Health Foundation