Mental Health Awareness Week 2022: Coping with Loneliness

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and we’re partnering with CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to help shine a light on some of the incredible work they are doing to prevent suicide. We’re also donating £1 from every sale this week to help fund their life-saving work!

Suicide is the number one cause of death for men under 45 in the UK. 125 lives are lost each week to suicide, of which 75% are men. CALM offers front-line support to individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts. They also campaign tirelessly to raise awareness and challenge the conversation around mental health. To get support or access their helpline - open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year - head to www.thecalmzone.net.

From our recent Instagram poll, we know that many people are guilty of bottling up their feelings. We asked, “How do you deal with negative emotions?” 

69% reported that they keep their feelings to themselves, 15% said they speak to friends and family, 11% said they only speak to friends, and 5% said they only share with family. With so many of us feeling uncomfortable sharing our true feelings with those around us, it’s no wonder that feelings of loneliness are on the rise.

The pandemic left many people feeling isolated, and some are struggling to get things back on track now that restrictions have eased. With this in mind, we’re exploring some of the ways you can fight back against loneliness. And if you’re in a position to help others who are struggling, there are plenty of ways to get involved!

The Facts About Loneliness

  • Loneliness is on the rise. The number of over 50s suffering from loneliness is expected to reach 2 million by 2025/26. In 2016/17, this figure was just 1.4 million, meaning an increase of 49% in 10 years.
  • Loneliness is bad for your health. It increases your risk of death by 26% and is worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • Loneliness affects more than just the elderly. 45% of adults felt occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. That’s around 25 million people.
  • Loneliness is also an economic problem. It is estimated to cost the UK economy around £32 billion every year.

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How to Fight Back Against Loneliness

Loneliness describes the gap between a person’s expectations of social contact and their actual levels of social contact. Not all people who are on their own are lonely. And you can be lonely when you are surrounded by people. 

Loneliness typically affects older people who live alone, but it can also impact younger people who might feel unable to reach out for help.

Loneliness can be incredibly isolating, and the lonelier you feel, the harder it can be to ask for help. Over time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re alone, so you assume there is no one there you can ask for help, so you stop reaching out. So, how do you break the cycle?

Understand Your Feelings

The first thing to remember is that it’s okay to feel lonely. A lot of people avoid getting help because they assume that they are wrong to feel lonely. This is particularly true for younger people who might think they don’t meet the criteria for loneliness. So, first things first, understand that it’s ok to feel lonely and to want to do something about it.

Connect with People who Care About You

If the narrative in your head tells you that you don’t have anyone in your life who cares about you, it’s time to reframe this. We tend to push people away when we feel lonely, so try reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You don’t have to tell them you’re lonely, just start a conversation by reaching out. They could also be in a similar situation and will appreciate getting a message out of the blue.

Try Something New

Joining a class or club is a great way to meet new people. If you don’t feel like you are getting the support and friendship from the people you already know, it might be time to expand your social circle. Sites like Meetup make it easy to connect with people who are interested in similar things and who are actively looking to meet new people. 

Find support online

The internet should bring us closer together, but it can often intensify feelings of loneliness, particularly when we start comparing our lives to other people. Despite its limitations, social media can help you to connect with like-minded individuals. Just be careful what information you share with those you meet online. 

How can you help those who feel lonely?

If you are in a position to help, there are charities and organisations that connect volunteers with individuals looking for help with loneliness. This type of volunteer work is called befriending, and it typically only takes around one hour per week. 

As a volunteer befriender, you will be matched with a person who could use a friendly chat. You typically visit them in their home, but might also like to join them on a trip to a community group, library or similar. 

You simply act as a friend and will typically enjoy a weekly cup of tea and a catch-up. Knowing that someone is going to visit them in their home every week can be a huge source of comfort and support for someone struggling with loneliness.