Local NHS helps shine a light on the importance of friendship for National Learning Disabilities Week 2020

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The NHS in Sandwell and West Birmingham is supporting this year’s Learning Disabilities Week, which takes place between 15 to 21 June, with a focus on the importance of friendships during lockdown.

People with a learning disability are more likely to experience loneliness and social isolation, which in some cases has been intensified by the lockdown according to the national charity Mencap, who are behind the national week. They want to raise awareness of the importance of friendships to help tackle social isolation, as well as exploring the different ways of maintaining friendships during this unusual time.

Friendships are known to help people feel happier, included and valued, and enhance wellbeing. But for people with a learning disability, opportunities to participate in their community, meeting people and develop friendships can be more difficult – especially during the pandemic.

Dr Ian Sykes, local GP and chair at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Never have friendships been as important as they have been during the last few months as our lives have changed dramatically due to the coronavirus pandemic. For people with a learning difficulty who can already experience high levels of loneliness and social isolation, it will have been particularly difficult.

“During this Learning Disability Week, I want people to think about extending their hand of friendship to someone they may know who has a learning disability. Whether that be through a phone call or a socially distanced chat, never has there been a better time to be reminded of the importance of friendships and the impact a friendly chat can have one someone’s mental wellbeing.”

Sandwell Council offers information about local support, advice and services for people who live with a learning disability. Visit their website for further information.

If you feel you need help and support for you or a family member who has or you believe has learning disabilities, NHS services are still operating during coronavirus and are here to help you and your family.

Contact your GP or you can make a self-referral to Sandwell Community Learning Disability Team. The service is available for people aged over 18 years who have a diagnosed learning disability, are unable to access mainstream health services effectively and/or require access to a specialist health team. For further information visit their website or call 0121 543 4063.

Please note services may be working in a different way due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Please contact them for further details.

Mencap are asking people to celebrate the friendships and connections people have made to show how important they have been during lockdown using the #Mencapfamily on social media. For more information click here