The Foundation for Art & Healing Launches The UnLoneliness Project to Address Growing Health Epidemic of Loneliness

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Through creative expression, signature initiative aims to address the serious, and sometimes fatal, mental and physical effects of loneliness

The Foundation for Art & Healing (FAH) is celebrating the launch of The UnLoneliness Project, its signature initiative designed to address the loneliness epidemic. A growing body of research shows that in addition to the mental health burden, loneliness and isolation brings with it a risk of early death on par with smoking. Through strategic partnerships with Americans for the Arts and the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), FAH aims to broaden public awareness of the negative physical and mental health consequences of loneliness, as well as develop and make available creative-arts-based solutions to reduce the stigma and burden on individuals.

Speaking at the launch event were Laurel Pickering, CEO of NEBGH, a 175 member business coalition, committed to addressing employer related health and healthcare concerns; Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, the premier national organization dedicated to advancing the arts and arts education in people's lives; Edythe Hughes, a fashion model, founder of Project Model Tee, and an advocate for mental illness services; and Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH, president of FAH.

As The UnLoneliness Project begins its rollout, one early and important focus is the workplace, where 147 million Americans spend much of their time, and bring their loneliness with them. Almost a third of US employees have expressed feelings of loneliness and isolation at work, which translates into a bottom-line impact of increased illness-related expense and lower overall productivity. With both individuals and businesses directly affected, loneliness has become one of today’s most urgent public health issues.

“Our collaboration with FAH through the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military has focused on the burdens of PTSD and combat-related injuries on our service men and women, Veterans and their families—where often loneliness and isolation is a devastating by-product,” said Lynch from Americans for the Arts. “We've seen the benefits of the arts in this arena, we know of their transformative power. We look forward to working with FAH to communicate the opportunities the arts provide in combating this public health crisis in additional sectors. We look forward to connecting people with the tools they need, and helping connect businesses working on this issue with our network of local arts agencies, who have access to the full range of artists and arts organizations on the ground in every community,” he added.

To address employee and workplace perspectives, The UnLoneliness Project incorporates low-cost, easy-to-deploy programs that harness creative expression in an engaging and convenient way. FAH will lead the partnership’s development of these programs and tools for distribution to employers nationwide. This includes strategies to generate awareness of the burden of loneliness, reduce the stigma associated with it, deliver creative-based approaches to engage affected employees, and measure associated outcomes.

“The emergence of this public health issue, and how it impacts healthcare costs and team performance within the workplace, is growing on the radar of companies,” commented Pickering from NEBGH. “As a result, it makes sense to explore approaches to combat loneliness as a means for improving an employee’s overall mental and physical health, as well as their workplace engagement,” she also noted.

The UnLoneliness Project will span multiple media and interactive platforms, as well as offer workplace-oriented toolkits to enable organizations to facilitate group and individual creative arts based activities that engage and connect participants.

“Despite the explosive growth of social media networks that offer 'connection,' it’s amazing how disconnected many individuals are feeling,” said Nobel of FAH. “By enabling the ability to use arts-based creative expression to connect authentically with others, we look to dissolve some of the of the barriers that create isolation and loneliness,” he added.

In closing the program, Huges said, “Using art as we approach UnLoneliness is an awesome, effective and accessible way to bridge the gap and create a world that is a little easier to live in.”

Through the UnLoneliness Project, the Foundation for Art & Healing hopes to provide employers, community based organizations and individuals with access to innovative tools for bridging that gap.

The UnLoneliness Project is sponsored by Optum, Wells Fargo and NutriSavings

About The Foundation for Art & Healing

The Foundation's mission is threefold: to explore and promote the relationship between creative arts expression and health and well-being through scientific research and multi-stakeholder engagement; to empower individuals and communities coping with challenging conditions like PTSD, cancer, stress and chronic illness through direct, impactful, and innovative programs and tools; and to engage, inform, and inspire the ever-growing arts and healing community. For more information on FAH and The UnLoneliness Project, please visit http://www.artandhealing.org/unlonely

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Maya Pattison
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