Prior to the last two years of pandemic-induced lockdowns and reduced social activity, one in four adults reported feeling lonely almost all of the time, and that figure has only continued to rise. Fortunately, loneliness is an emotion you can overcome, and you don’t have to do it alone. Here’s how the Mental Health Foundation is helping people improve their mental wellbeing and feel more connected.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from the 9th to 15th of May, and is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. The U.K based charity is dedicated to preventing mental health problems and enabling individuals, communities and society to live mentally healthier lives. For more than 70 years the organisation has been providing a range of practical services including research, community programs and mental health advocacy.

This year’s theme is Loneliness. Source: Mental Health Foundation.

The Impact Of Loneliness

Over half (54%) of Australian respondents report that they feel significantly more lonely since the beginning of the pandemic.

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Loneliness, a negative emotion associated with poor mental and physiological outcomes. Loneliness can stem from real or perceived isolation, and is characterised by feelings of being excluded from everyday life, emptiness and stigma. Feeling lonely isn’t uncommon, in fact most of us will experience loneliness in some form, be it across social, emotional or existential in nature.

Pre-pandemic up to 1 in 4 people reported feeling lonely. Recent studies have seen that figure rise to nearly 40% in the US and over half (54%) of Australian respondents reporting that they feel significantly more lonely since the beginning of the pandemic. When factoring in any degree of loneliness, the figures jump again to nearly two thirds of all respondents internationally.

While quarantine and rolling lockdowns in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic have arguably safeguarded public health, though they have contributed to social isolation – a ‘feature’ by design. Though loneliness and social isolation are quantifiably different, they are related, and in many cases a lack of connection can be a contributing factor to loneliness.

Unfortunately, there is a social stigma attached to loneliness. This may prevent people from communicating to others how they feel, or even admit it to themselves. If left untreated, loneliness can negatively impact a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, leading to a multitude of unwanted effects, which is why it is so important to be forthcoming and seek treatment. Loneliness can manifest as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Negative thoughts
  • Diet problems
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Low energy
  • Anxiety and depression

A Life Less Lonely

You don’t have to go it alone.
Help is always available.

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) provides a range of resources to help people understand and overcome loneliness through informative and practical steps. For individuals, MHF provides a collection of inspirational stories, highlighting people’s experiences of loneliness – a great reminder that you are not going through it alone and that it is possible to overcome. The organisation has also prepared policy briefings to ensure UK governments keep loneliness as a matter of priority when drafting mental health policy.

Perhaps of greatest value are the help and advice on how to deal with loneliness. These include many handy tips to prevent unwanted negative thoughts, including using social media in a positive way (such as finding supportive or interesting communities), engaging in physical exercise and doing activities that you find enjoyable. Central to the strategy to reduce the prevalence of loneliness is making connections, either in real life or online. Joining a group or even making casual conversation with someone your come across in your daily life can help promote positive feelings and a sense of belonging. You might even give someone else that same benefit. For more helpful tips, make sure to download the complete guide here.

It can be challenging to deal with loneliness, but it is important to remember that help is always available and that you don’t have to go it alone. If you are feeling lonely, reach out to a friend or contact a mental health professional for help and guidance.