As we begin writing up our findings for the Community Navigators study into loneliness, we ask some lived experience advisory panel members for their thoughts so far.
We know that loneliness is harmful for both our physical and mental health. People living with depression and anxiety can struggle to feel better if they also feel lonely and isolated.
Meaningful connection is the theme of this year’s Loneliness Awareness Week (12-18 June) and has also been the driving force of our Community Navigator studies. The study aims to find evidence-based social support to help those with severe long-term depression build connections.
As a core partner on the project, we employed a peer researcher to carry out qualitive studies and support Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP) involvement.
Participants in the study were randomly allocated either 10 support sessions with a Community Navigator, alongside their usual community mental healthcare, or they continued to receive treatment as usual.
As the Community Navigators2 project moves into the delivery phase and we begin writing up our findings, we asked the LEAP to tell us about their experiences.
It offers support that starts where you are, not where you should be. A Navigator works alongside a person to spark and identify interests, and to take steps at their own pace to forge social connections.LEAP member
What is a Community Navigator?
Participants would meet with a Community Navigator to look at what their individual goals were for enhancing social connection.
One LEAP members describes the Community Navigators as:
“They are professionals who help people access health and social care services. They work with people who have complex needs and may find it difficult to access the services they need. They provide support and guidance to help people navigate the system…
“The role of a community navigator can vary depending on the organization they work for, but generally, they are responsible for building relationships with local service providers and helping people access the services they need.”
What’s special about the Community Navigators programme?
“It offers support that starts where you are, not where you should be. A Navigator works alongside a person to spark and identify interests, and to take steps at their own pace to forge social connections. Having a trusting relationship with the Community Navigator can be fundamental to this process, allowing the sharing of struggles, fears and hopes, and the celebration of successes as defined by the person.
“Having experienced a similar process, in a much less structured way, that improved my social confidence and helped me build relationships, I am hopeful this can help individuals with mental health challenges to find their own ways to develop connections over time.” LEAP member
You can easily become isolated through mental health. You might find that friends abandon you, not wanting to be around when you’re no longer “fun”, or due to stigma. It’s a blow to your confidence and faith in people.LEAP member
“[My] loneliness was debilitating – physically and mentally. Tired, anxious and depressed. I felt lost, ashamed and a burden to family and friends. I battled alone. A Community Navigator would bridge that gap. Explore my individual needs. Co-create a bespoke package to move forward. Support me to build connections. Give me confidence and empower me to be my best self, right now.” LEAP member.
“You can easily become isolated through mental health. You might find that friends abandon you, not wanting to be around when you’re no longer “fun”, or due to stigma. It’s a blow to your confidence and faith in people, yet we need to regain social connections to recover. The unconditional support of the Community Navigator helps us find our feet again, and leads us to new pastures.” LEAP member
What’s next for Community Navigators?
McPin has spoken with the Community Navigators, supervisors and the people taking part in the programme to understand their experiences of recruitment and starting the study.
Our LEAP leads on developing an interview guide for these conversations. Our peer researcher is collecting and analysing the data, drawing on a co-production approach.
One of our next steps is to write up our findings from the stage 1 qualitative study, and to begin a stage 2 qualitative study to understand people’s experiences in the programme.
We’re also keen to look at opportunities for wider implementation of the Community Navigators