The Mental Health Foundation’s theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, is LONELINESS. It will run from Monday 9 May – Sunday 15 May 2022. The week will explore the experience of loneliness, its effect on our mental health and how we can all play a part in reducing loneliness in our communities.
For the campaign I have downloaded a zoom background that I’m going to use in all of my meetings for this week, and I have purchased a green ribbon badge that I will wear to help support this campaign. The Mental Health Awareness Week colour is green. This means that you can wear a green ribbon or clothing in support of the event. By wearing the colour green, you are showing others that you care about mental health awareness, or if you would like to download any other resources, please click here.
More than 9 million people in the UK say they often, or always feel lonely at some point in their life, and since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, feelings of loneliness have only become worse.
Anyone can experience loneliness, regardless of age or background, but the reasons why will vary from person to person.
What are the symptoms of loneliness?
Often, for people experiencing loneliness, socialising can become difficult. Some describe symptoms of loneliness as feeling:
- a loss of confidence,
- isolated and alone,
- without purpose,
- and in the most extreme cases, loneliness can cause thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
Recent research has shown that one in five people in the UK said they often, or always, feel lonely.
One in three had not had a meaningful conversation in the last week.
Now, 38% of UK adults say loneliness negatively impacts their mental health.
Even though one in five people admitted to feelings of loneliness, more people than we think are suffering in silence. A Red Cross survey of 1,000 people found that almost 60 % of respondents admitted they didn’t feel confident talking about loneliness, and a third more said they would never admit to feeling lonely to anyone.
What are the causes of loneliness?
The causes of loneliness vary and there can be different barriers for people in creating meaningful connections. Feeling alone and isolated can also be the result of experiencing a major life change. Causes of loneliness include, but are not limited to:
- becoming a new parent
- leaving hospital
- mental health
- language barriers
- low income
- the impact of lockdown
- limited mobility
- relocating or moving home
- a busy work and lifestyle
- severed relationships
- lack of positive social connections
The Red Cross recently carried out a survey into loneliness. They offer some tips to help you cope with feeling lonely, or help give an understanding of how someone who is lonely may feel:
Remember you are not alone. Lots of people of all ages and backgrounds feel lonely. Remember around 9 million adults in the UK say they are often or always lonely.
Think about what is making you feel lonely. Anyone can experience loneliness at some point in their life, but the reasons why will vary from person to person. Taking time to think about what’s causing you to feel lonely, may help with finding what could help you to feel differently.
Look out for local resources. If you’re going to the doctors or your local library, look for leaflets about any local events, exercise classes, book clubs, coffee mornings or playgroups that may help you connect with your community.
Take up a new hobby that can be done in pairs or groups, like learning a language. It might be something you’re not immediately hugely interested in but it could lead to other things. If you don’t like it, you can always change your mind and do something else.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Try opening up to someone who you feel comfortable talking to, whether that’s a member of your family, a friend or your GP.
Accept help when it’s presented to you. It might be a friend or a neighbour suggesting that you to go round for a brew. Don’t think that you’re a nuisance or they’re not offering because they want to see you. Try not to worry about how you’re being perceived.
Volunteer. It can be a great way to meet new people and make new connections. You could help out at a local charity shop or use your skills to support others.
Surround yourself with activity. If you’re feeling alone, why not pop out to a coffee shop or somewhere where there’s some activity going on. You may meet someone else in a similar situation to you and it might spark a conversation. Try to smile at people. Having someone smile back could change your day.
Join groups online. If you can’t leave the house, try joining an online community who share similar interests to you. You can also try inviting people into your home if you find it difficult to go out.
Access free services. There is lots of support out there which could help you address the causes of your loneliness.
The Red Cross also have a help line you can contact for help and support if you would like more information on this you can find it by clicking here.
If you want to share your experience of loneliness, offer some tips on how you coped, or if you would like to contribute to the blog – I would love to hear from you. You can reply directly from the blog or the achieve together app, or even e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been a mental health nurse for 28 years. I work in the Health and Wellbeing Team, and my main role is to facilitate mental health and related subjects. I also facilitate epilepsy and emergency rescue medication training. I provide support and consultations to managers and teams supporting individuals with complex needs and mental health difficulties. This blog is written to encourage people to start talking about mental health, in order to raise awareness and reduce stigma.