Loneliness is being recognised as a problem for many and Mental Heath Awareness Week 2022 is all about feeling lonely.
Back in 2018 Theresa May launched the first cross-Government strategy to tackle loneliness. Funding was also made available to help communities build stronger connections in a bid to alleviate social isolation and that feeling of being solo. It was at this time that loneliness really started to be recognised “as a thing”.
The Marmalade Trust – loneliness
Loneliness is a big issue for many. Who even speaks to their neighbours these days? We drive in and out of our homes without even knowing who lives in our neighbourhood. When the Autumn hits, the elderly can start to feel even more vulnerable, as they know the long dark days and nights are on their way. For many, their only interaction with the outside world is if they become ill and have to see seek medical assistance or have a spell in hospital.
What causes loneliness?
Throughout our lives there are certain circumstances which can lead us to feel lonely. Some of the triggers for loneliness are common and run alongside life changes.
- Becoming a parent – especially if you are a younger parent
- Leaving care
- The break-up of a long-term relationship/marriage
- Bereavement – loss of a partner
- Becoming a full-time carer, for example looking after an elderly parent
- Suffering redundancy/unemployment
- Suffering from empty-nest syndrome when the kids leave home
Lonely hearts – finding a partner
Of course, there are other life issues which can cause us to feel alone too.
Loneliness and wellbeing has been declared as one of the biggest public health challenges of our time and this led to the aforementioned ex Prime Minister confirming that by 2023, all GP’s across England will be able to refer patients to community activities and services. This will be called ‘social prescribing’; basically writing a prescription for ‘social interaction’. The ambulance service report that every day, across the UK people are making calls to the emergency services for issues which do not require a callout; simply because they are lonely. This was exacerbated by the pandemic. GP’s report having many patients who make an appointment just to have a chat.
It is great news that the issue of feeling lonely is out in the open and being spoken about; measures are being put in place to help the vulnerable as it is reported that 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative for one month. This figure is absolutely shocking.
Social media helps many to feel less isolated
Sometimes we may seek solitude because we just want some space and like being alone. However, long-term isolation has a detrimental effect on our health and well-being, and that’s where social media and websites such as The Group Hug can enable people to feel connected.
Although it cannot replace that physical face-to-face interaction, it can help to alleviate the feeling of complete isolation. Feeling lonely is an unfortunate reality for many and it can affect anyone at anytime, across all social backgrounds.
How can you help yourself to feel less lonely?
So, what can you do if you feel alone? There is help out there and it is not a sign of weakness to admit that you are feeling lonely. Have you tried the Meetup App? It’s a superb way to make new local friends. Simply enter your information, what you like to do and hey presto! you will start to get invitations to events which you might like to engage in. It could be walking, pub lunches, interesting talks. Don’t feel shy about attending, as most of the people in the group have probably experienced the feeling of loneliness just like you; On top of that, many of the meet-ups are free.
Are you a parent flying solo?
If you are a new parent, there are an abundance of baby and toddler groups, so seek them out. Speak to your health visitor if you are finding things tough. You could also reach out to your local church, as the majority of them will run some kind of baby group. Take a look at your local community centre to see what they are offering too, and remember that these are also for Dad’s! Thankfully, gone are the days when a Dad would feel awkward at a children’s group.
Find help in The Hug Directory
Uncoupled and alone?
Separating from a partner or becoming unhitched, often leaves people feeling lonely. Friends disappear from the radar as they don’t want to choose which “camp” they are in, and others simply ditch you as you are no longer part of a couple. Other so-called friends dump you for no apparent reason; but maybe they are jealous of your strength?
For some people, if they are feeling unstable in their own relationship, they can start to see a single friend as a threat. Loneliness can also hit those who are in a couple, and in fact, there is probably nothing worse than feeling lonely when you are actually in a partnership.
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The biggest thing you can do, is to try not to be in ‘victim’ mode for too long. You have to find the strength to reach out for help, get on with your life and see the opportunities which lie ahead. Having a positive mental attitude, however difficult that may be, is key. This positivity may not be so easy to find if you are housebound or elderly, but speaking to your GP, local social services, a counsellor, coach or therapist can help you to look forward and find those life goals again. There will be things you want to do to achieve, if you just look hard enough. We can all get stuck in a rut where we just need a helping hand to ease ourselves out.
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