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Talking Loneliness - Mental Health Awareness Week
by Elise Parkes |
Let’s talk loneliness. It’s something 1 in 4 adults feel some or all of the time. There’s no single cause, although being 16 to 24, from an ethnic minority community, or being LGBTQ+ are just a few of the things that increase our chances of feeling it.
So what can we do about it? There’s definitely not one single solution, after all we’re all different, but from finding the people that ‘get you’, to utilising social media for good (not bad) there are ways to help. In honour of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re talking all things lonely from who, why and what you can do about it for yourself and others.
The longer we feel lonely the more we’re at risk of mental health problems. And why do so many people feel lonely? We’ve collated the information provided by the Mental Health Foundation and their research below.
We all know what loneliness feels like and being lonely from time to time is normal. However, there are certain factors that increase our chances of lasting loneliness, and when loneliness is severe or lasts a long time, it can negatively affect our mental health. These include:
- Being single
- Living in rented accommodation
- Being between 16 and 24 years old
- Being LGBTQ+
- Being from an ethnic minority community
- Being unemployed
- Living alone
- Having a long-term health condition or disability
- Being a carer
- Being widowed
But why is loneliness so negative when it comes to mental health? The thing is loneliness can make it harder to connect with other people, preventing you from joining social situations, and in turn exacerbating that loneliness even further. When you’re lonely it can be harder to find joy in life and escape negative thoughts.
So now we know why combatting loneliness is so important, but what can you do to tackle your own loneliness, or support those feeling lonely in your community?
Copying with Loneliness
- Small enjoyable things
Keeping busy and doing things we enjoy is one way of trying to manage loneliness. Going to the gym, sorting through your wardrobe. Creating some art (no matter how talented or not you might be…) Small activities can give you energy and positive feelings, but make sure these are fun or fulfilling. Doing something like watching a TV show simply as a distraction could just delay or suppress your feelings instead, in turn actually making your mental health worse.
- Stimulate your mind
Activities that occupy your mind can help with loneliness, so it’s time to stimulate your mind! Taking courses or listening to podcasts on topics from comedy to fitness. Something as simple as listening to the familiar voice of someone you like can help you feel less lonely.
- Light exercise
Physical exercise can help with loneliness, and it doesn’t have to be extreme. A walk in the park when you’re feeling overwhelmed, listening to music and dancing around your living room. It’s as simple as that.
- Small hellos
Talking to others when you feel lonely can be difficult. However, trying to connect with the people you meet as you go about your day can be helpful, even if it’s just saying hi to a delivery driver. This can give someone else a positive lift as well as yourself.
- Find people that ‘get you’
Connecting with others when you’re feeling lonely can be hard. But there are benefits in finding people who have been through similar experiences to you. Finding people that ‘get’ you can give you a sense of belonging that may be missing, whether that’s through local groups or social media.
Have you heard of Mental Health Mates? It’s aetwork of peer support groups IRL and online, run by people who experience their own mental health issues, meeting regularly to walk, connect and share without fear or judgement. www.mentalhealthmates.co.uk
- Spend time with pets
Not only do animals provide us with unconditional love and support, but they also help to give structure to our days and even encourage us to get out and connect with others. If you’re lucky enough to own one, interaction with pets is also shown to help reduce stress levels.
- Using social media
With both positive and negative connotations, social media when used in the right way can help with feelings of loneliness. Try to be aware of how you feel when you use social media and focus on topics and activities that work best for you.
- Therapy can help
Getting a therapy appointment can be hard, but if you can find a professional, it can really be of benefit. It’ll provide you with a safe space to work through your feelings and thoughts without judgement. Check out your local resources by visiting the NHS website.
Helping others that feel lonely
- Don’t judge or stigmatise
It’s important not to judge or stigmatise people who feel lonely. It might not be something you understand or feel if you were in their circumstances, but it’s a normal feeling that all of us are likely to experience at some time in our lives. Telling other people that their poor mental health is the reason why they are feeling lonely is really not helpful.
- Try to make groups welcoming to other people
It can be difficult for people who are feeling lonely to join a group like a club, so it’s important try to make groups be as welcoming as possible to newcomers, as well as being flexible around things like how often people attend.
- Try to listen and show understanding
Having an understanding and compassionate approach, and not ignoring the person’s experience, will help them to feel heard and understood.
Need Mental Health Support?
If you’re concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority. If you need immediate help you can and should visit your local A&E. Below are some mental health support resources recommended by the Mental Health Foundation as well as a few recommendations of our own. They also offer additional information on how to access support here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help
Talk to the Samaritans
The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day - in full confidence.
Call 116 123 - it's FREE
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shout Crisis Text Line
For support in a crisis, Text Shout to 85258.
If you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support.
Shout can help with urgent issues such as: Suicidal thoughts, Abuse or assault, Self-harm, Bullying, Relationship challenges.
Rethink Mental Illness
You can call the Rethink advice and information line Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm for practical advice on: different types of therapy and medication, benefits, debt, money issues, police, courts, prison, your rights under the Mental Health Act.
Call Rethink on 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at your local rate).
The Mind infoline
Mind offer an information line to answer questions about: types of mental health problem, where to get help, drug and alternative treatments, advocacy.
Call the Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 (UK landline calls are charged at local rates, and charges from mobile phones will vary considerably).
Or email email@example.com.
Essential support for under 25’s from mental health to money, homelessness to finding a job, breakups to drugs
Is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer Mental Health Service working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all LGBTQ communities and to make mental health a community concern. Get support form their live chat on their website – www.mindout.org.uk