This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, which is running from May 9 through May 15, 2022. The year, The Mental Health Foundation has decided to focus on the theme of loneliness. This week will focus on what it means to be lonely, how it affects our mental health, and how we can all help to reduce loneliness.
What does it mean to be lonely?
Loneliness can be caused by a variety of factors that range from person to person. Some people may feel lonely because of a life event, while others may feel lonely at various periods of the year. It’s vital to keep in mind that emotions of loneliness can shift throughout time and depend on the situation.
Thoughts that nobody needs or wants you, or that you don’t have any significant relationships are some of the feelings you could experience when you’re lonely.
Loneliness can also manifest as:
- Feeling tired or lacking energy.
- Caring about material possessions or frequently shopping.
- Cravings for physical warmth such as taking long, hot showers, hot drinks and cosy blankets.
- Binge-watching TV or spending excessive time on social media.
- Increased stress levels or an inability to focus.
- Feeling run down or frequently getting sick.
- Insomnia or interrupted sleep.
- Feelings of self-doubt, hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Feeling anxious or restless.
How does loneliness affect your mental health?
Loneliness has been linked to despair and anxiety and can have a significant influence on mental health. Loneliness isn’t a mental health issue in and of itself, but the two are intertwined and frequently manifest at the same time. Having a mental health condition, for example, might make you feel lonelier. Similarly, loneliness may have a bad influence on your mental health, especially if it lasts for a long period.
Loneliness can be caused by a variety of mental health disorders, such as social anxiety. People who suffer from social anxiety may find it difficult to participate in ordinary activities that involve other people, resulting in a lack of meaningful social interaction and, as a result, feelings of loneliness.
How can we help those experiencing loneliness?
You may have a suspicion that someone is lonely before they are aware of it themselves. For a variety of causes, they may have gotten more isolated. Perhaps they’ve gone through a life transition, such as retirement, loss, or illness, making them more vulnerable to loneliness.
Here are some ways to help those who are experiencing loneliness:
Make yourself available
One of the nicest things you can do if you know someone who is lonely is to show them that you are available. Keep in touch with them by calling, visiting, or emailing them regularly. Loneliness can be linked to other issues such as sadness or loss, which can lead to individuals withdrawing and avoiding company. They may not always want to speak with you, but don’t give up on them if they don’t answer your calls or visits. Respect their desire for privacy while reassuring them that you’ll be there for them if they need you.
If you would like to make yourself available to help those struggling with loneliness and other mental health issues, you can register to volunteer with Shawmind.
Ask if you can help
You may volunteer to take the person you’re worried about out if they live in a remote area or find it difficult to go. Don’t force them to do anything. However, if they appear to be interested in a specific activity, you may assist them in figuring out how to get there or volunteer to accompany them to make it less intimidating.
You could inquire as to whether they are receiving any assistance. For example, you might assist them in arranging a care needs evaluation if they want assistance at home. You could also assist them in being active and eating properly so that loneliness does not negatively affect their health.
If you would like to learn more about helping people who are experiencing loneliness, or whose loneliness is affecting their mental health, Shawmind’s 2 Day Mental Health First Aid course may be perfect for you.
Check how they are feeling
Try to chat to them about how they’re feeling without pressuring them to discuss a certain topic. It’s possible that what you see as loneliness stems from something else that is bothering them.
People may feel more at ease talking to a stranger or a professional than they do with someone close to them. In this case, try putting them in touch with a mental health charity such as Samaritans.
Whatever you do, try to be dependable. Forgetting a promised phone call may not seem significant to you, but it may be quite frustrating for someone who has little contact with others. If you’re too busy or live too far away, ask if someone else can assist you in ensuring that the individual sees or speaks to someone frequently. This might be a friend, relative, neighbour, or a volunteer for a charity.
If you are experiencing loneliness, please reach out to someone, and check out our tips to combat loneliness.
Interested in learning more about mental health?
If you want to learn more about mental health, how to prevent issues, manage it, and support those with issues, sign up for our CPD Certified Mental Health Awareness Course. You can complete it in your own time (approx. 3 hours) and all proceeds go to our #Headucation campaign to provide training to teachers that helps them support school children with their mental health.