Mental Health Awareness Week - what is loneliness?

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the focus this year set by the Mental Health Foundation is loneliness, something that has increased in recent years and is known to cause mental health issues in some people if experienced for extended periods.

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We asked the Head of Wellbeing at Marshall Skills Academy, Jo Boyd, to clarify what loneliness means, she said, “It isn’t about being alone, loneliness and being alone are different things. Loneliness is about a loss of connection, often sparked by a life event; a change that can be either positive or negative but regardless disrupts our routines and certainties. This disruption can leave us feeling like no one understands what we are experiencing, that no one cares what we are experiencing or that there is no one we can talk to who relates to how we are feeling. Loneliness is described very well by Justin Bieber’s lyrics in ‘Lonely’, and before you ask, I am not a Belieber, but I think that he describes experiencing loneliness very well.” 

"What if you had it all

But nobody to call?

Maybe then you'd know me

'Cause I've had everything

But no one's listening

And that's just lonely"

– Justin Bieber, Lonely

Jo Boyd continued, “Bieber shares a great example of loneliness as someone who is rarely alone but is surrounded by people who do not understand him outside of being a public figure. Being alone is simply that we are by ourselves, this is something we all need to do at times and is generally a positive experience. Being lonely is something we can experience when we are alone when we do not want to be or when we are around others who we do not share a connection with.” 

Loneliness is more harmful to us than we realise and is often compared to being worse for our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Most of us are acutely aware of the damage that smoking can do to our physical health, but we often fail to consider the detrimental impact that loneliness can have.   

Jo Boyd said, “Loneliness can harm our mental health if experienced over an extended period, which can lead to issues with sleep, increased stress, anxiety etc. This can lead to a vicious circle because often when our mental health is low, we withdraw from friends and activities, which increases our feeling of isolation and loneliness.” 

So, how do we stop this vicious cycle before it harms our mental health? How do you spot loneliness creeping in? Jo Boyd said that there are a few tell-tale signs that we can all become more aware of. 

How to spot loneliness in yourself: 

  • Feeling generally down

  • Having, or feeling like you have no one you can talk to about your feelings

  • Feel like no one cares or understands

  • Felling like you would rather spend time alone

  • Poor relationships where you feel like you lack a connection 

  • Feeling numb

 

How to spot loneliness in others:

  • They are withdrawn 

  • They lack engagement in conversation and activities

  • Low mood, short temper and less approachable

  • Taking more time off work for illness - headaches, and stomach aches in particular

  • Work performance is declining

 

How to help others:

  • Check in with people, find out how are they feeling and if they have any challenges you can help with?

  • If you have noticed that they have become withdrawn let them know you have noticed

  • Encourage them to open up over a coffee or during a walk

 

How to help yourself:

  • Acknowledge that it is ok to feel lonely sometimes, but spend time exploring these feelings and reflect on why you may be feeling this way

  • Limit your time on social media, where you only see people posting the best parts of their lives – do not let their highlights reel fool you into thinking that your everyday reality is less exciting 

  • Build relationships with people and communities who share the same interests and hobbies as you

  • Volunteer for a charity or cause you believe in as this is another opportunity to find likeminded people

  • Consider getting a pet, animals are great company if you have the time and money to care for them

  • Speak to your GP for additional support, especially if you have felt this way for some time

 

Remember that loneliness is something that we all experience from time to time, and it is okay to ask for help if you need it.

Free Helplines

British Red Cross          10 am – 6 pm                 08081963651

Samaritans                     24 hours a day               116 123

Poor mental health remains the primary cause of long-term absenteeism from work in the UK. An effective way to reduce this is by training team members in Mental Health Awareness and Mental Health First Aid. Improving mental health awareness in your organisation and destigmatising mental health conversations have been shown to have a measurable positive impact on team performance. Jo Boyd will be running the next half-day Mental Health Awareness course at the end of May and a Mental Health First Aid Course at the beginning of June.   

Half-day metal health awareness course

Location: Online (via Teams)

Date: 19th May 2022 (MH Awareness week) 

Time: 9:00am-13:00pm

This online mental health awareness half-day course is a great introduction to mental health. It will help you to increase your knowledge of mental health and mental health issues, factors affecting mental health, stigma and its impact on recovery, begin a conversation with someone about their mental health and look after your own mental health. 

Price: £125+VAT

Adult two-day MHFA

Location: Cambridge 

Date: 6th & 7th June 2022

Time: 9:00am - 17:00pm 

Become a qualified Adult Mental Health First Aider, recognised by MHFA, England. Through self-guided and classroom learning, you will gain a better understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect it, develop practical skills to identify the triggers and signs of mental health and the confidence and knowledge to reassure and support a person in distress.

Price: £300+VAT

Get in touch to discuss how Marshall Skills Academy can support your mental health training needs.   

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