Mental Health and Loneliness

Let's connect this #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.

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Anna Wetherburn, Service Manager at Wellness in Mind, reflects on the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

For 2022, the theme of Mental Health Awareness week is loneliness. Feeling or being lonely can have a huge impact on a person’s emotional and physical health, and recent research shows that that loneliness is becoming a significant part of our society. It’s thought that over a half a million older people can go at least five or six days without seeing or speaking to anyone, and evidence has shown that 45% of adults (in England) can occasionally, sometimes or often feel lonely – that equates to twenty-five million people!

In previous years, loneliness has been associated with older generations, but a new pattern is emerging. Research by Sense (the national disability charity) has shown that up to 50% of people with a disability will be lonely on any one given day. Whilst Action for Children has reported that 24% of parents say they are often or always lonely. Gender can have an impact too, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that women are significantly more likely than men to report feeling lonely often or always.

But what is driving this culture of loneliness? In recent years, there has been a big decline in community connection, and a significant rise in the use of social media. The COVID-19 pandemic, has also played a very significant part in opportunities for face-to-face connection, with working from home and social distancing becoming the ‘new normal.’

A lack of contact with other people can have a damaging impact on a person’s life. People may neglect their physical health, and this can go unnoticed without in-person contact. Reduced time spent with family and friends, can in some cases lead to relationship breakdowns, and the lack of vital ‘chat’ with colleagues in the workplace can lead to isolation, particularly for those who live alone.

We can all help others to feel less lonely, and it’s important that we focus on our own wellbeing too. Just small changes can make a big difference. Make sure you check-in on neighbours more regularly, particularly those who are elderly. Just a hello or quick chat could mean so much to someone who is lonely. Practice self-kindness and rethink how you spend your spare time, say yes to meeting people more often (even if you feel out of practice), and try out new community groups. If you’re not sure what groups are available, ask at your local library or look for a local noticeboard. You could even start your own group!

If you are based in Nottingham and need someone to talk to, you can visit us at Wellness in Mind. Our drop-in sessions run between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, and the team can offer mental health support to anyone aged 18 or over.  We’re on the phone too, just call 0800 561 0073 or visit our website to find out more.