What is social prescribing? | Metro Information

It seeks to fulfill folks’s wants in a holistic method (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and whereas the theme for this 12 months is loneliness, it’s nonetheless essential to consider all areas of psychological well being. 

Not solely did the pandemic make some folks really feel extra remoted than ever, and heighten issues like well being nervousness, however there are actually international occasions (just like the invasion of Ukraine and the rising value of residing) that imply we’re feeling extra apprehensive, anxious and pressured than ever earlier than. 

In truth, we’re at present in the course of a psychological well being disaster with 38% of GP consultations now having a psychological well being component, in contrast with 25% pre-Covid. 

But the elevated demand is inflicting a pressure on assets and means persons are struggling to get the assistance they want.

However, that is the place social prescribing can come into play.

What is social prescribing?

If you’re not clued-up on what that it’s, social prescribing refers to when professionals refer sufferers to a variety of native, non-clinical providers to assist their well being and wellbeing.

So social prescribing seeks to handle folks’s wants in a holistic method – slightly than turning to medicines.

‘It works primarily by encouraging people to engage in activities that are meaningful and enjoyable to them, and connecting to other people,’ explains Dr John Read, a professor of medical psychology on the University of East London.

‘Social prescribing is the use – particularly in primary care (GPs) – of social activities instead of (or in addition to) medication, often for mental health problems such as depression.’

This can embody train, sports activities, becoming a member of neighborhood teams and NGOs, artwork, drama, volunteering and extra.

What are the advantages?

John says: ‘It is now recognised that our main and psychological well being providers have turn into grossly over-reliant on a medical mannequin method to emotional misery.

‘This has led, for example, to one in six people being prescribed antidepressants every year with even higher rates for women, older people and poorer people.’

John explains that whereas antidepressants and medicines can profit some folks, they’ll additionally trigger adversarial unwanted effects and dangers and may typically result in dependency – so different different choices should be thought-about, too.

As a end result, social prescribing is progressively getting used as a substitute for beginning folks on antidepressants or different medicines.

John says: ‘It avoids implying that there is something irreversibly dysfunctional about people’s brains (e.g. the unproven “chemical imbalance” fantasy generated by the drug business).

‘And it encourages us to use our own resources and the resources of the community around us.’

It’s additionally a more cost effective as an preliminary choice, and John factors out that it saves the NHS cash.

What’s the science behind it?

There’s a rising physique of proof that social prescribing can result in a variety of optimistic well being and wellbeing outcomes. 

In truth, research have already pointed to enhancements in high quality of life and emotional wellbeing, psychological and normal wellbeing, and ranges of despair and nervousness.

One analysis of a social prescribing challenge in Bristol, from the early 2010s, highlighted enhancements in nervousness ranges and in emotions about normal well being and high quality of life.

And, in 2019, the NHS long-term plan introduced an inclusion of social prescribing into its complete mannequin of personalised care

This new mannequin goals to allow folks – notably these with extra advanced wants – to take higher management of their well being and care. It additionally plans for not less than 900,000 folks to be referred for social prescribing by 2023/24.

So it’s little question one thing we’ll be seeing increasingly more of over the approaching months and years.

Social prescribing can work for a variety of individuals, together with these…

  • with a number of long-term situations.
  • who want assist with their psychological well being.
  • who’re lonely or remoted.
  • who’ve advanced social wants which have an effect on their wellbeing.

Are there disadvantages to social prescribing?

However, it’s price declaring that for many who endure with social nervousness, social prescribing may go in the same solution to publicity remedy – because the affected person might really feel compelled into neighborhood exercise.

So some sufferers might discover themselves in uncomfortable conditions, which can truly heighten emotions of tension.

Kimberley Brownlee, a professor of philosophy on the University of Warwick, has additionally factors out one other concern.

She says: ‘It may appear to trivialise the ache and complexity of loneliness as one thing simply solved with some chat.

‘If a GP gives someone a social prescription, he might leave her office feeling more disheartened and incompetent than when he walked in.’

However, it does appear that total the advantages of social prescribing are likely to outweigh the disadvantages.

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