Feeling isolated and lonely is a common experience for spinal cord injured people.
Living with a disability can make it harder to connect with people and form or maintain friendships. There are a host of practical issues that prevent spinally injured people from getting out there – from accessing mobility aids and wheelchairs, a lack of accessible transport, venues that don’t give adequate disabled access . . . the list goes on.
And while it’s improving, the misunderstanding and lack of awareness around disability can make it tougher to forge friendships and find common interests. The British Red Cross says that some people avoid talking to a disabled person because they don’t want to appear ‘patronising’.
A shocking 50% of people don’t believe they have anything in common with a disabled person, and a quarter admit to avoiding chatting to a person with a disability for fear of ‘saying the wrong thing’
What causes isolation after injury?
People can become isolated for a range of reasons. Often their care needs aren’t fully met, so they’re unable to confidently leave the house or mix with others due to concerns over infections or bladder control, for example. And practical issues such as not having a fully accessible home, lack of transport and poor mental health. And many jobs and social activities aren’t properly equipped, leaving many SCI people out in the cold.
“People can overcome isolation by engaging in activities as much as possible, from grassroots sport and physical activity to volunteering for us or other causes that they care about,” says our in-house counsellor Ian Younghusband. “It’s important to build a social group and engage with friends, be it new or old. Getting work, whether it be part-time or full-time, is also a good way of escaping the perils of isolation.” Support to get back to work is available through the government’s Access to Work scheme.
Ian also recommends that spinal cord injured people access counselling, get support from their peers and engage in social groups, both in-person and online.
We may be emerging from the worst phase of lockdown restrictions, but for many of us it’s deepened isolation and meant we’ve lost touch with family and friends.
“As restrictions ease this will get better,” says Ian. “But people need to reconnect with the support available and push their local authorities and health services, which are often dealing with large waiting lists. It’s important to make sure your needs are heard and not forgotten about.”