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Overcoming the Loneliness Epidemic

By Jill Tettmann, President and CEO, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka

When we think about our health, often our minds go to our physical health – our cardio levels, our strength, our flexibility. But how healthy someone is can also be determined by our mental health. In fact, when your mental health suffers, it can have significant impacts on your physical health. As we shift into a new normal, post-pandemic, with more and more people working from home and an increased amount of time spent scrolling on social media, it’s important we still find time to connect and come together with our family, friends, and neighbours. Because feeling connected to your community is crucial to overcoming the loneliness epidemic we are now facing[1].

A key factor that contributes to positive mental health is having strong social support. Being connected to your community, and having a circle of friends, family, and neighbours that are there for you leads to feeling satisfied and participating in meaningful social activities. Having this social support system that cares for you in times of need is a vital part of having positive mental health. In fact, “adults with strong social support are 72% more likely to have high psychological well-being and 64% more likely to report a strong sense of belonging to their local communities[2]”.

These statistics help to illustrate to us the importance of connectedness within our communities, ensuring that our community is healthy and happy. Other factors that affect one’s sense of loneliness are one’s:

  • relationship with themselves
  • relationship with family/friends
  • work/life balance
  • sleep quality
  • activity levels

There are so many factors that when put together, can impact your feelings of loneliness. And that can feel hard to overcome. However, the Canadian Mental Health Association points out that taking steps to work on your social connections is a meaningful way to combat feeling lonely. They point to steps like taking things slow, identifying and working around barriers, and being active as just a few first steps to start to build relationships and start to overcome loneliness.

All of these things, and more, are possible at the YMCA. Spaces at the YMCA in our community provide the opportunity to connect, to try something new, and to build relationships, one day at a time.

The YMCA has been bringing people together for nearly 170 years, to learn and grow, to feel healthy and strong, to make friends, and to strengthen communities. We believe that when we connect with one another, we are stronger and healthier. The YMCA is a place where community programs act as a pillar of belonging, bringing our friends, families, neighbours, and communities together to not only promote individual wellness but also to encourage collaboration and connection. Whether you are looking to improve your physical wellness, find high-quality licensed child care, memorable camp experiences for your family, help navigating the job market, or looking for support as a newcomer to Canada, the Y is here to help connect you to your community. And at the end of the day, it may take time, but we must be patient with ourselves. The loneliness epidemic did not become a reality overnight, and we must take intentional steps forward on our own, and together, to end it for our community.

To learn more about opportunities to shape the future of belonging in our community, visit


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