New York – Here’s the thing: when you have a deep conversation with friends, family, and significant others, chances are, they acknowledge that they are lonely. With the surge in online content consumption, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and shorter than ever attention spans, our ability to connect with others is rapidly changing. In fact, these external factors are increasing feelings of loneliness and social isolation. So why should we care? For one, loneliness has incredibly negative consequences on mental and physical health. Emotionally, more people experience an increase in depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and much more. Physically, loneliness is contributing to chronic pain, fatigue, substance abuse, and heart issues. In fact, social isolation and loneliness are on par with a 30 percent mortality risk, similar to smoking and obesity.

Mental health has often been at the center of controversy. Therapy and psychiatry costs tend to be high and many insurance plans cover only a small portion of those services. But at the same moment, for many people, there’s a stigma around emotional health. So often times, people aren’t quick to share their feelings about it or seek treatment. The UnLonely Project seeks to change that through creative expression.

What is it?

The Foundation for Art and Healing launched the initiative in response to the social isolation “epidemic.” The project leverages artistic expression as a way to raise awareness and reduce loneliness within significantly affected groups of people. Additionally, through their work, they will be able to research how they can alleviate the issue amongst Americans as effectively as possible.

How is it helping?

Through “The UnLonely Project,” the Foundation is helping more people speak about their issues with social isolation and loneliness. Most recently, they launched a 40-film interactive film festival online that aims to help people feel a level of “connectivity” with others through inspiration and information. Participants can partake in active discussions with others, share content on social media, try related activities, connect with a larger community and obtain additional film recommendations. Each film focuses on some aspect of emotion, be it sadness, fear, happiness, hope and more. Viewers can filter the films through a category or topic search.

Why it matters?

Given that the increase in social isolation has in part been heavily impacted by use of the Internet, The UnLonely Project has taken on a new approach: They are using the very tool that has contributed to loneliness and given people a way to engage in content that will help reset their viewpoints. The videos center around issues that many people face and while people often don’t see the challenges of others, with this interactive film festival, they can understand that they in fact aren’t going through their challenges alone. They get a sense that there are others like them out there. And perhaps, it will inspire them to take a step forward in connecting with others.

About the Author:

A creative director by trade, Cheena has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, startups and agencies. Specializing in using design thinking, technology and strategy to build out creative solutions, she adds her expertise to the Syneos Health Communications team as Director of Innovation. During her career, she has been at the cutting edge of the industry with experience in augmented reality, social listening, media theory and user experience. With over 13 years of experience, much of her focus has revolved around solving communication challenges and creating brand engagement in a culturally relevant way. She also has been an instructor at Miami Ad School NY for over 6 years, mentoring new creatives on developing integrated campaigns, understanding media, interactive concepting, and working with account planning teams.