Penpaling for Mental Health 

Author: Claire Gault

Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder can be more susceptible to loneliness, as our condition feels isolating from the world around us. With the government issuing restrictions on socializing, loneliness can be intensified more than ever before, and this issue cannot be waved aside; social connection is vital to the human experience. I’ve discovered a way to be social while also maintaining safety: penpaling. Although this post isn’t entirely about bipolar disorder, I hope this could reach someone struggling, like I did, and inspire them to start a letter-based relationship. 

I found my first overseas pen pal through globalpenfriends.com . You can fill out your profile to advertise your creativity, personality, and hobbies that you potentially have in common with other people! You can choose from nearly every country and even narrow down which city you’d like your penpal to live in. Another helpful tip would be to check out profiles under the “Recent Penpals” header to find people that might be more active on the site. There is an option to pay for a premium membership, but having a free account works just as well. 

An Instagram account was just shared with me called @victorianseniorcare, which is a chain of retirement homes in North Carolina. As someone who has worked in an elderly care facility, I know that residents are often lonely and would love more human connection. The account posts pictures of their residents with signs introducing themselves and their interests, so you will have plenty to talk about in your letters! I would suggest choosing someone that people haven’t commented as much about; imagine feeling left out as your peers receive loads of letters. Putting a little extra effort in asking thoughtful questions about themselves, decorating the envelope, or including tea bags/stickers/art inside would mean the world to them. 

I personally haven’t used this resource yet, but many people choose to establish a letter exchange with someone in the prison system. Be wary of which websites you use, because some ask questions like height and build, which shouldn’t be relevant to a platonic penpal relationship. If you feel compelled to help someone in their rehabilitation journey or want to provide encouragement to an incarcerated individual, make sure that your source is vetted and safe to use. 

Last but not least, writing to your family friends is one of the best ways to strengthen your friendship! Even if you live in the same town, letters are lasting and will be a piece of you that they will always have. If you’re a college student like me, some of your friends might be states (or countries) away. I would recommend this option the most, as it is almost always guaranteed to be the safest option. If anyone is reading this and might be interested in getting started, pick an avenue (or two)(or many) and start writing! Remember, you deserve care and connection throughout your mental health journey, and there are so many people that would be delighted to get to know you. Happy penpaling!

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