May 10, 2022
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week is from the 9th – 15th May 2022 and this year, the theme is “Together we can Tackle Loneliness”.
This seems to be a perfectly fitting theme following the Covid-19 pandemic with so many suffering the effects of loneliness and the impact it had on their mental health during lockdown.
In the UK, one in four adults feel alone all or some of the time. The reasons are widespread and there is no single cause or perfect solution. We are all different, some of us may prefer being alone, while others need to be around people. For many who may already struggle with their mental health, loneliness throughout the pandemic has had a difficult impact, sometimes causing more serious mental health conditions, alongside the common underlying feelings of fear, stress and anxiety. Furthermore, it has been harder to get mental health support as resources have been limited, potentially causing conditions to plummet.
Mental Health Awareness Week this year is raising awareness of the impact of loneliness and how this can affect our mental health. It aims to give us tools we can use to address loneliness and learn how we can take practical steps to avoid it impacting our mental health. It intends to remind us all that loneliness is real and we should all be doing all we can, to support others.
The Mental Health Foundation have recently published ‘Loneliness and Mental Health Report UK’ to help us understand what causes loneliness – what has potentially impacted our mental health, the circumstances or life events which can create such feelings of loneliness.
Anyone can experience loneliness at some point in their life. However, the following reasons are the most common causes:
- Being widowed
- Relationship break-up
- Living alone
- Having a long-term health condition or disability which restricts life
- Being unemployed
- Being between 16 and 24 years old
Loneliness in Young People
Studies have shown that young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old feel the impact of loneliness more than older adults. The pandemic increased feelings of isolation from friends, school, college or university, a period which should be one of the most sociable times of their lives. Early in the pandemic, when young people were asked in March 2020 what their top concerns were about coping over the next few months, their top concern was isolation and loneliness (Young Minds. Coronavirus report March 2020).
Studies showed that as time passed in the pandemic, feelings of isolation and loneliness increased in young people:
- As the first lockdown was progressing in April/May 2020, 35% of young people said they feel lonely often or most of the time despite spending three hours on social media.
(Oxford ARC Study. Achieving resilience during COVID-19 weekly report 2. 2020)
- In late November 2020, according to a survey of UK adults which took place nine months into COVID-19 restrictions, almost half of 18- to 24-year olds reported being lonely during lockdown.
5 Ways to Help Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness can transpire from many different circumstances and taking small steps to help reduce these feelings can make a positive impact on your life:
- Get Sociable: Plan to see friends or family a few times a week.
- Find Interests: Join a local group with similar interests or online community.
- New Projects: Find new projects in the home or garden to keep you busy.
- Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins which give you the ‘feel good’ factor. Joining a gym, a walking group or a yoga class may help you to meet new people.
- Talk Therapy: Speak to a therapist and share your feelings.
Loneliness is the feeling that we are lacking in social communication. The pandemic has been a very challenging time for many people, and so we are not alone in our feelings – but we are all in different circumstances. As lockdown has ended and the world slowly returns to the ‘new normal’, many will be making the most of being sociable, seeing friends and family.
However, for some, loneliness still remains. Those who live alone, who have lost loved ones or gone through a difficult relationship break-up will still be suffering loneliness. Talking to a therapist can help people to explore their feelings and learn coping methods so that they can take the steps to lessen the challenges of loneliness.
If the pandemic has taught us one important point, it is how much we should value everyone in our lives and how we should strive to support everyone in their mental health challenges. Do one good thing today – reach out to a friend or a stranger. Actions help us to tackle loneliness and one small action can change a person’s life.