Social isolation and mental illness

Just been doing some thinking this morning about the fact that us people with mental illness are probably some of the most prone to social isolation along side maybe the elderly…and how in my own experience this isolation can feed the fires of symptoms and insanities.

I have learned through my involvement with the clubhouse model that simply having a place to come and socialize reduces the rate of hospitalization dramatically. It’s been found to be the case by researchers but is also readily apparent throughout my involvement with clubhouse. It’s amazing that a community of over a hundred adults with mental illness has such a low rate of hospitalization…it’s incredible really. It is so rare in my clubhouse to hear that someone has been hospitalized. There are the few that are still in and out of these places…but these people are generally those who rarely come to the clubhouse and tend to be abusing hard drugs.

I wish I had been told about at the very least my local consumer alliance back when I was complaining of social isolation…back when I was at my worst symptomatically…having a place to go and have a cup of coffee and talk to others would have gone a long way.

I still wonder why so few mental health professionals inform patients of the existence of drop in centers and consumer groups and clubhouse programs. A good amount of the time I’ve found that they are not even aware of these resources. It can be of huge importance to have a place to go and can make an enormous difference in the severity of our illness and it’s effect on our lives.

Do you find that social isolation makes your illness harder to deal with? I did in the past. I’d like to see more social support for isolated and socially excluded individuals.


This is a lovely post. I too would love to see more support for isolated individuals. I too get much worse when I’m alone and left to sit and sink into my head and begin to get more paranoid and panicked.

I think a lot of doc’s don’t mention this because as you say… they don’t know it exists. They are used to seeing patients who do isolate themselves… not ones that seek out social interaction. It’s a slightly new idea for the field. But as more clubhouses exist I think more docs will hear of it and pass the word on.

I wasn’t told about my day hospital by my pdoc… I was told about it by a nurse in one of the group homes I was in.

I think you are doing very important and amazing work by the way. Thank you for your dedication to the club house model and I hope you can find a way to spread the word as time goes on.

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I have been isolated for years but for last 3 years I have and still am at college I have made friends but they all have partners and or children and their own circle of friends I also work in charity shop I meet lots nice people to chat with but I never have the phone number of anyone so I have no real friends I have couple good internet friends but no one local. Weekends are quiet but I see parents. This Saturday I am at a local mindfulness event and sometimes go on coach trip

[quote=“mussel, post:1, topic:11723, full:true”]Do you find that social isolation makes your illness harder to deal with? I did in the past. I’d like to see more social support for isolated and socially excluded individuals.

yes and no. it’s harder because getting out of my head is better for me, but social interaction can be really difficult, too. i think social isolation is worse for me, but it’s so attractive to me at the same time. unsure that made sense, but hopefully.

i agree wholeheartedly with the last sentence. i think social support should be more available, more readily accessible. i wish exclusion didn’t happen, especially of those who seek support and are shunned. i often avoid it, but i still think having access to social support is important.

it’s a main indicator of quality of life. and what life outcomes will be, from what i’ve read and been told. i’m fortunate to have a partner/husband and my father lives with us to help out, so it’s a bit built in. the years i was just adrift i definitely regressed in some clear sense.

I think that my city (Memphis) needs a mentally ill clubhouse. We don’t have one. We have a LGBT house in midtown in a hot spot with bars and restaurants, I would like to start a mental illness clubhouse.

If I ever get a doctorate, I am probably going to start one. I have met a solid handful of high-functioning mentally ill people, people with psychotic disorders at my school. Just met a girl in my class who has anxiety and PTSD with psychotic features yesterday. I know a paranoid schizophrenic from a fraternity, I recognize one who walks across campus the same time I do and from an anime club meeting, also from NAMI but I never personally shook his hand, he would leave early (maybe he didnt want to meet me) and one of my friends is a paranoid schizophrenic, he and I hangout a lot and he goes to my school.

That’s just by not even really looking for mentally ill people. I would love to take professional knowledge and rephrase it and educate fellow mentally ill people with it, which would be easy because I am mentally ill and know how they experience things, I just function highly and my meds work pretty well.

There is a LGBT clubhouse, a cigar clubhouse, a LARP group (go look that up for a laugh), why no crazy house?! We need somewhere to quit pretending to be normal, my friend and I end up talking about this a lot. We find that car rides or back porches are the only places to really speak our minds, that and text messages. There are few places where a person with schizophrenia can really just be themselves. Support groups only meet twice a month and dont do enough together, from my experience. Mostly the same old same old and then religion thrown into the mix (Oh Thor). I mean we need like friday nights with the mad doctor, here to answer all of your questions and make inappropriate jokes, to educate you on what the **** is wrong with you and how to deal with it, all of that good stuff.

I mean I am crazy after all, I might function highly but I sure as hell am not “normal”. I’ve been madly obsessed with Vikings for like two weeks now, for example. I call myself Bjorn the Mad. LOL but I go to class and make sense, take tests and finish early, hell I have a test today I am going to study a little bit more for after I eat breakfast and my coffee kicks in. Im gonna take a test, go to another class, then go to the gym for an advanced workout (I am actually impressively big and lean, I am an experienced lifter and know nutrition fairly well) and then finish a paper today. But what runs through my head while doing all of this high-functioning stuff is not normal.

When pressure like two tests and a paper in three days builds up, my symptoms poke at me. My psychiatrist says its normal.

Social isolation just makes the illness worse. It is a serious problem that needs addressing. My friends are there for me, so I am not socially isolated. I have lots of acquaintances. I have family. I date people, rather a large number of people, looking for the right one.

When my wife died I was set up to do groups at a day centre. At the time I had a care co ordinator and one of the warning signs written was ‘isolating’. A year later I was referred to a drop in. Between the drop in and the day centre I had a reason to get up. Then things changed with my groups at the day centre and I had difficulty attending.Instead of trying to find alternatives they dismissed me . I had also stopped going to the drop in run by a local branch of a national charity due to issues on their national forum that made me paranoid I was not wanted. By the time I was able to think of going back it was closed down.
Luckily I had a befriender for a while who saw me once a week but when I wasn’t due to see him I got in the habit of not getting dressed and not going out of the flat for days.
When he left this got even worse. I’d go out once a week to get shopping and fortnightly for an injection but that was about it.
Then last year I was assigned support workers who saw me twice a week at first then once. One of the things included going out for coffee. However this was time limited and ended a few months ago…
Now I am back to most fortnights only going out to put rubbish out or go for my depot.
I do not have face to face conversations and am on my own 99% of the time.
How does this affect me? More time to dwell which increases the anxiety etc. Find excuses to stay in. Go to bed a lot during the day. I am also getting more and more phobic about meeting people. My dad will be seeing me soon ,once with my step mum(maybe) and the other bringing my step brother,whom I’ve never met, and his family. I am dreading the latter visit and anxiety levels have shot up.
I also think isolation makes it harder to have a sense of purpose and affects things like motivation. For example if you are not going to see many people why be so bothered with your hygiene etc ?


Everyone needs friends, particularly real friend. I cannot be alone. If I have no friends to talk to, I will come to visit forums.

I isolated myself because people and the outside world posed a threat. It did make me worse because I would ruminate and become more absorbed in my delusions, my voices would get worse. But to me it was safer than what my mind was telling me was on the outside.

I did do voluntary work but it was two mornings a week and even then I was left alone most of the time. I really started socialising when I went to a pottery group at my local college for those with mental illness and leaning difficulties. My nurse found it out through the OT I was involved with before, it’s a small group and is primarily for socialisation and enjoyment. It was there I found out about my current course. I’m now on that course, it’s a bigger group and I have to face corridors etc. I’ve surprised myself. I haven’t been hurt. My thoughts are expressing themselves through hallucinations but it’s nothing new. I have yet to have a delusion surrounding the course. The people are surprisingly nice, the tutors are lovely, I only feel threatened by the younger ones.

It feels like my eyes are opening slightly more; to the less threatening side of the world, the world my mind created, and that works as evidence against my beliefs any day!

I’m glad you feel it’s good for you, keep on doing what you’re doing!

Take care,


Sometimes I have this feeling too. Not just the young ones, most taller guys.
What have made you feel this particular way?

**Hi Mussel~
I am so glad this clubhouse has been a success.
Here, we dont have one and were in dire need! I told you about the one my sister was working on in CA. They just opened their doors a week ago. I hope it`s a success.
I would love to try to open one here and get my son involved. The funding seems to be the hardest thing. **

I will have to look this up, no idea what a clubhouse is, but it sure sounds like a good idea.
I go to my mom’s once a week for a few hours to help her on the computer, but if it weren’t for my husband, I doubt I would leave the house at all. I’ve always had a small world so I’m real good at isolating myself. In the psych ward once, a psych tech burst in my room and tore the covers off of me in bed, yelling at me she was sick and tired of me isolating in my room and to get up and get out and talk to someone. Another psych tech came over and apologized for her behavior.
Think a clubhouse would keep me from seeing those creepy things that start taking over my house every time I’m alone.

I’ve only found a golf club in my area. I would like to join one or set one up. I will probably go to NAMI meetings once I move to the city.

I noticed that I get more focused on what I’m doing instead of my mom talking to me. She was gone for the weekend and my symptoms flared up. I didn’t see anyone for a couple of days.

I am proud of you doing so well with the clubhouse.

i only isolate when i dont feel like moving i just go into recluse mode

Mostly I think it boils down to the fact that I was bullied a lot at school and I don’t trust young ones to accept or try to understand my behaviour and physical gait, most of the (and I do mean most) haven’t lived yet although I know many have but when I was at school and rather psychotic the behaviour I had aimed at me still frightens me, I feel they will still seek me out.

So I know it’s irrational, at 21 I’m scared of teenagers, my motto for starting college was “I’m 21, I’m an adult and little teenage brats can’t hurt me” but I’m still using it and I’m still scared, I think it’s all tied in to those years. Also like you; I’m very small (4ft 8) a lot of them tower above me, people banging into me or standing on me, make me feel threatened, being laughed at, makes me feel threatened. I think part of the issue is schiz, has given me an arrested development I feel more like 17 than an adult sometimes you’ll hear me say that I’m a teenager or use the term adults when I’m one myself. I’m slowly learning my age.

I’m trying to get over it. And so far nothing has happened to make me feel threatened apart from the above (being banged into etc), so maybe they’ll all prove me wrong :slight_smile: !

Take care,

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I am socially isolated for the most part - by my own choosing - I really am not seeking out friendships, especially in person ones. My marriage and divorce was so emotionally charged and full of drama that I am completely burned out.
I prefer the company of certain quiet family members, in this regard I am not completely isolated.
This is a big reason why I am not so enthusiastic about joining a support group - I dont have the desire to meet new people.
I mean family is ok, but I dont need the headache and drama of getting involved with friendships and dating - i am emotionally drained out and I am enjoying the peace right now - relationships destabilize me

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