How do you measure friendship?

If there is an irrepressible human trait it’s the determination, against all odds, to reconnect. Though governments seek to atomise and rule, we will keep finding ways to come together. Our social brains forbid any other outcome. They urge us to reach out, even when the world seems hostile.

Without the power of kindness, our society will fall apart

George Monbiot

Guardian Online November 2nd

If you asked anyone here, at Designs in Mind, what difference it has made to their lives, one of the first things they would want to talk to you about is friendship.

It gets me out of the house (the only time I go out on my own). Here, I feel that no-one judges me … I am accepted for who I am.


Coming here is really helping… I find the sociability/ chatting to people / having hugs, really important.


Here there is an opportunity to be myself without putting a mask on and be with like-minded people.


The friendships that form at Designs in Mind enable people to build a sense of identity that is inclusive of their mental health label, but not exclusive to it. For some members, talking to friends and family outside of Designs in Mind is a challenge because of the stigma attached to mental health or changes in their lives since a time of crisis, time in hospital, time away from work.

After referral to Designs in Mind members find others to make connections with and feel a sense of belonging. It has been described by members that they feel ‘o.k to have a wobbly’ here, and because of that openness there is a real sense of trust between everyone. It is not often that people talk about their mental health while they’re working, but there is a sense of ease that people can if they want to, and there are people to listen. Often it is the everyday conversations that fill the air and lot’s and lot’s of laughter.

And because of the friendships made here this enables more connections to be made outside of Designs in Mind…

It has made a big social difference, I am now talking to people here much more now, which didn’t happen before. I am getting out of the house more, have increased in confidence, learning new skills and meeting lovely people.


It has made a huge difference to me. It keeps me going, and I often find it difficult to leave the house and can very tearful. On days that I go to Designs in Mind, I can usually go on to do other things ….. food- shopping, banking ….. generally things that matter in everyday life.


The impact has been HUGE, without Designs in Mind I wouldn’t be going anywhere else. Coming is a very big positive …… it helps keep me well. I am more likely to get involved in social activity, meet friends, get out of the house, do shopping. I have learnt new skills and feel I am making a contribution to society. I have improved to the extent that I am running a MIND support group and feel I am helping other people.


Since coming here I am getting used to mixing with other people, and this is slowly improving. I am also now talking more to neighbours and other people. There is an ongoing increase in my confidence.


Loneliness and mental health

Loneliness puts individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline (James et al, 2011)

One study concludes lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia (Holwerda et al, 2012)

Lonely individuals are more prone to depression (Cacioppo et al, 2006) (Green et al, 1992)

Loneliness and low social interaction are predictive of suicide in older age (O’Connell et al, 2004)