In addition to May being mental health awareness month, the 9-15 is also mental health awareness week, which takes a different theme each year. For 2022, the Mental Health Foundation have focused the week on loneliness – recognising that more people than ever are reporting feelings of loneliness and isolation following the pandemic.
Loneliness happens when our social needs are not being met, for one reason or another, and we can feel lonely at any time. A recent survey from Mental Health UK found that 1 in 5 workers report feeling lonely on a typical working day, so it’s much more common than a lot of people might think.
If you’re feeling lonely, there are things you can do. Here are some of our top tips for combating loneliness:
If you live alone, or you have caring responsibilities that make it harder to top up your social batteries, there are still actions you can take to combat loneliness. Try to arrange a regular check in call with a friend or relative, either over the phone or video, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes to check in. You could even arrange to watch something together at the same time while on the phone, or have dinner over Zoom.
If that’s not for you, why not try joining an online group on Facebook or a forum based on something you're interested in– there are loads out there, about everything from parenthood to sports teams. Even chatting to someone you share something in common with online can help to meet those social needs.
If you live with someone else, like a roommate, partner or family, why not arrange a weekly catch up over dinner or breakfast to suit both your schedules? With the pressures of every day life it can be hard to find time to just sit and enjoy each other’s company, but scheduling in a regular commitment can make a huge difference if you’re feeling lonely.
We know that more workers than ever have been feeling isolated, and it can be easy to see why. Many people are still working from home, some not regularly speaking to their colleagues or seeing anyone outside of their household for days at a time.
If this sounds like you, why not suggest a weekly ‘coffee break’ with your team or colleagues, where you get to just sit and chat about anything – except work. This goes some way to replicate those ‘kettle conversations’ you’d have in an office while you were making a round of hot drinks. You can also do this by giving someone a call between meetings, or arranging a catch up at lunch time or over a break.
If you’re in a work place you might still feel lonely, especially after the last few years have changed the way we interact. People will be ready at different times to do things like go out for a coffee or a drink after work, but it’s worth asking if you’re missing that social interaction with your colleagues. If you or they aren’t there yet, why not set up a WhatsApp chat or a socially-distanced lunch break catch up, so you can still get to know your colleagues and meet your social needs in a way that works for everyone.
If you still need support
If you’re still feeling lonely there are plenty of organisations out there that can help.
- The British Red Cross have a support line if you’re feeling lonely and want to talk to someone between 10am and 6pm: 0808 196 3651. They also share wellbeing resources on their website, which you can access by clicking here.
- When life gets difficult, you can always talk to Samaritans by calling 116 123 or email them at email@example.com.
- If you need to talk, you can contact CALM on 0800 585858.
- If you’re elderly, you can contact The Silver Line on 0800 470 80 90 for information, advice or just for a chat, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. You could also speak to Age UK on 0800 169 6565.
- Under-25s can access the Young Minds crisis line by texting "YM" to 85258.
Don’t forget, if you’re in crisis and worried you might harm yourself, you can call 111 or contact an urgent NHS mental health helpline. Find your nearest one by clicking here. In an emergency, always call 999.
If you’re experiencing a problem with your mental health and need support, you can also speak to your GP or refer yourself for talking therapy through your local authority.