25 July 2019

The Psychology Department in the Forensic Directorate is working in collaboration with an international group of researchers to trial the feasibility of the ‘Groups 4 Health’ program that tackles loneliness and social isolation among service users in the directorate.

Loneliness and social isolation often follow from experiences of mental illness and mental distress and are simultaneously also risk factors for such conditions. Service users in the forensic directorate frequently report that they experience loneliness and social isolation.

The program is making use of a social identity-based approach based on Professor Catherine Haslam and colleague’s work as summarised in ‘Social Cure: Identity, Health and Well-being (2012)’ and ‘The New Psychology of Health: Unlocking the social cure (2018)’.

Professor Haslam is a Clinical Psychologist and researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia, whose research focuses on the social and cognitive consequences of identity-changing life transitions, and on identifying the group processes that are vital in protecting health and well-being in such periods.

Professor Haslam gave an inspiring talk at the John Howard Centre where she set out the research evidence underscoring the fundamental importance of multiple group membership, not just for mental health and wellbeing, but interestingly also for physical health.

Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Project Lead Dr David von Brandt, said:

‘We are very excited about this partnership, and hope it will help us to think about social identity more routinely, and how social identity concepts may be employed in our efforts to improve wellbeing - including physical and mental health.‘