Exploring the experience of loneliness, it’s effect on mental health and how we can all play a part in reducing it in our communities. This is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
With one in four adults feeling lonely some or all of the time, it’s a topic important to discuss. Loneliness can make it harder to connect, harder to find joy in life and escape negative thoughts.
With no single cause and not one single solution (after all we are all very different from one another) the longer we feel lonely the more we’re at risk of mental health problems
With the Mental Health Foundation shining a spotlight on tackling your own loneliness and supporting those who feel lonely in our community, we’ve collated and shared their information and research below.
Why is loneliness so negative when it comes to mental health?
Making connections, entering social situations, Loneliness can make these extremely difficult to do, negatively effecting a person’s mental health and exacerbating the problem further, making it harder to find joy in life and escape negative thoughts.
As well as having such a deep effect on the mental health of individuals, The Mental Health Foundation’s research also explains how loneliness leads to greater pressure on public services through, things like increased GP visits, longer hospital stays, and the costs of associated conditions such as depression and diabetes.
So how can one tackle their own loneliness, or help others that feel it?
Coping Strategies for Loneliness
- Keep yourself busy
Small activities can help give you energy and encourage positive feelings, keeping you busy and helping you to manage that loneliness. Whether that’s gardening, going to the gym, or organising your wardrobe.
It’s important these things are fun or fulfilling, not simply a distraction that delays or suppresses your feelings instead.
- Stimulate your mind
Activities that occupy your mind can help with loneliness, listening to podcasts, doing some online learning. Something as simple as listening to the familiar voice of someone you like can help you feel less lonely.
- Try a physical activity
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 and doesn’t need to be pressurising.
- Try to engage in daily life.
Talking to others when you feel lonely can be difficult and intimidating. However, trying to connect with the people you meet as you go about your day can help you feel less lonely. Simply sharing a polite greeting with a delivery driver, or someone you walk by will give someone else a positive lift as well as yourself.
- Find people that ‘get you’
Finding proper connections with others when you’re feeling lonely can be hard and it is difficult to put yourself out there. However finding people who have similar experiences, hobbies or interests can help give you a sense of belonging that may be missing, whether that’s through local groups or social media.
- Spend time with pets
Lucky enough to own a pet? 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, they’ve even been shown to help reduce stress levels.
- Use social media in a positive way
When used in the right way, social media can help with feelings of loneliness. Finding those digital communities that share your interests and passions can help you feel less alone. Try to be aware of how you feel when you use social media and focus on topics and activities that work best for you.
- Talking therapies can help
Talking therapy can be hard to get – but if you can find one, a professional can really be of benefit, providing a safe space to work through your feelings and thoughts without judgement. Look into your local resources by visiting the NHS website.
How to support other people who are feeling lonely
- Don’t judge or stigmatise
There can be a stigma around loneliness which can prevent people from opening up and having genuine conversations. So, it’s important not to judge or stigmatise people who feel lonely. Telling other people that their poor mental health is the reason why they are feeling lonely is really not helpful.
- Make groups welcoming to other people
It can be difficult for people who are feeling lonely to join a group like a club, make new friends, or meet new people. Try to be as welcoming as possible to newcomers, as well as being flexible around things like how often people attend if it’s an organised group.
- 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. 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.
The Mind Legal Advice service
If you need legal advice, you can speak to Mind about: mental health, mental capacity, community care, human rights and discrimination/equality related to mental health issues.
Call the Mind Legal Advice service on 0300 466 6463 (UK landline calls are charged at local rates, and charges from mobile phones will vary considerably). Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.