When does illness really start? Can we change the outcome by addressing our connectons?

  • Our neighborhood and home life?
  • Our social and spiritual memberships?
  • How well connected we are with available programs and services?

Dr. Helen Kingston in the small town of Frome, in Somerset, England, realized that some of her older patients who had multiple illnesses were absorbing much of her resources and still remaining ill.

Dr. Helen Kingston and her staff realized they were failing to cure because they didn’t really understand the underlying causes; lack of knowledge, social and living conditions.

 

The town that’s found a potent cure for illness – community 

Article from The Guardian, February 2018

“While separating us from society as a whole, inflammation also causes us to huddle closer to those we love. Which is fine – unless, like far too many people in this age of loneliness, you have no such person.”

“The Compassionate Frome project was launched in 2013 by Helen Kingston, a GP there. She kept encountering patients who seemed defeated by the medicalisation of their lives: treated as if they were a cluster of symptoms rather than a human being who happened to have health problems. Staff at her practice were stressed and dejected by what she calls “silo working”.

“So, with the help of the NHS group Health Connections Mendip and the town council, her practice set up a directory of agencies and community groups. This let them see where the gaps were, which they then filled with new groups for people with particular conditions. They employed “health connectors” to help people plan their care, and most interestingly trained voluntary “community connectors” to help their patients find the support they needed.”

Sometimes this meant handling debt or housing problems, sometimes joining choirs or lunch clubs or exercise groups or writing workshops or men’s sheds (where men make and mend things together). The point was to break a familiar cycle of misery: illness reduces people’s ability to socialise, which leads in turn to isolation and loneliness, which then exacerbates illness.

The town of Frome in Somerset England has invested in something called the Compassionate Frome project. The project was initiated by Dr. Helen Kingston whose staff was becoming overwhelmed and frustrated dealing with by the multitude of seemingly separate health issues of their elderly patients.

“So, with the help of the NHS group Health Connections Mendip and the town council, her practice set up a directory of agencies and community groups. This let them see where the gaps were, which they then filled with new groups for people with particular conditions. They employed “health connectors” to help people plan their care, and most interestingly trained voluntary “community connectors” to help their patients find the support they needed.”

 

So, health is not just about medicine … health is impacted by finances, housing and socialization.

 

Men’s Sheds – a place for “camaraderie and belonging”

Men’s Sheds, one of the initiatives the town of Frome has started, resonated strongly with me. I remembered my father become animated when he had a building or repair project, especially when it was to benefit other people.

Searching for Men’s Sheds in Canada I found one in Lanark County with several members I know personally. They’ve been building Bat Houses and are currently trolling for new projects including making wooden buttons out of a heritage tree being cut down in Perth, Ontario’s, Stewart Park.

Their Facebook page says:

Lanark County Men’s Shed group is here to promote spaces in the county where men can gather and share information and ideas on projects and activities to encourage camraderie and belonging and contribute to the community.”

Perhaps a place where male bonding happens over busy hands. Where men of all skill levels can meet, grab a tool or a whittling knife, and relax while being busy. Relaxing, discovering common interests and also what challenges and illnesses we are dealing with “in common”.