17th – 21th June marked Loneliness Awareness Week and we thought this would be a very relevant time to look at the loneliness epidemic in more detail. Whilst loneliness and social isolation has been a concern for many years, awareness has been growing, as shown by the introduction of Loneliness Awareness Week in 2017. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of breaking down stigmas and successfully tackling loneliness.
The government announced a programme on tackling loneliness in 2018 which includes a set of commitments such as:
- Encouraging employers to take action on loneliness
- Increasing spaces available for community use
- Supporting the health and care systems through patient referrals to local support programmes
The programme is still in its early stages of implementation so it is not possible to fully evaluate its success. However, it is clear that by developing and implementing the strategy, this is a key priority for the government.
According to the Office for National Statistics, over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone. But loneliness is not an issue that only affects the older generations; it is a problem for children too, as revealed in the Community Life Survey 2016 to 2017 and Good Childhood Index Survey 2018:
11.3% of children aged 10-15 revealed that they often felt lonely, with higher rates of loneliness experienced by children who received free school meals and children living in a city. Location and family income are therefore significant factors in childhood loneliness.
Another worrying piece of information revealed by the survey was that children and young people felt embarrassed about admitting to feeling lonely and that they saw it as a failing.
Dealing with loneliness is an important part of improving mental health, so those who feel lonely will benefit greatly from finding ways of reducing those feelings of loneliness. Whilst the journey is not easy for everyone, the end results are worth the work.
Some tips for tackling loneliness:
Stop comparing yourself to others. If this is something you find yourself doing then you may be looking at social media and thinking that other people are living better lives. Social media is not a true reflection of life, so try not to be drawn into that way of thinking.
Make new connections. You might find that this pushes you out of your comfort zone but it is never too late to try and make new connections. Find out about events or groups that you have an interest in and push yourself to go along. Once you get over that very first time, you will probably find that you are with like-minded people with shared interests.
Talk about it and get help when you need it. Loneliness affects a huge percentage of the population and there should be no shame in admitting to feeling lonely. Talking about it with the people closest to you, your doctor or teachers will help you to find ways of reducing loneliness.
There are many organisations that are available to give you advice and support, including Northern Healthcare. Loneliness is a common issue that can be tackled with the right course of action and support and ultimately improve mental health. For more information regarding this, then please contact your local mental health clinic or contact one of our professionals today.