This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week across the United Kingdom. This year the focus in on Loneliness – raising awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing, reducing the stigma around it and the practical steps we can all take to address it.
It can feel horribly isolating to believe that no one in the world cares about you and that you are completely on your own. Anyone who has experienced loneliness may know just how empty and hollow life can feel.
Feeling lonely can affect anyone at any time and it is much more than just being on our own. When these feelings persist over a prolonged period of time, it can have serious effects on our mental health and contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression and social withdrawal and lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and reduced immunity.
People can experience loneliness for many reasons, and often life events may cause it, such as:
- experiencing a bereavement
- going through a relationship break-up
- retiring and losing the social contact you had at work
- changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers
- moving to a new area or country without family, friends or community networks.
Loneliness is not about the number of friends we have, the time we spend on our own or something that happens when we reach a certain age. It is a feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have and those that we need or want. That means it can be different for all of us.
It is affecting more and more of us and it has had a big impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic. Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health and we can all play a part in this.
This week, make the time to get in touch with a friend or neighbour who you have not spoken to in a while, go for a walk with a work colleague or arrange to spend time with a friend having some fun.
Remember to remind employees of your free and confidential Employee Assistance Helpline and resources if you have this, or point them in the direction of these free resources which help having important conversations around mental health.