16 Jun 2020
Loneliness Awareness Week 2020 is designed to help raise awareness of loneliness and encourage people to speak about it openly. This year's campaign is called One Less Lonely Voice – taking the 'one' out of loneliness.
Humans are social animals, our social relationships are particularly important for our emotional fulfilment, behavioural adjustment, and mental wellbeing. Disruption to these relationships can cause exceedingly unpleasant experiences associated with a lack of human intimacy, called ‘loneliness’.
Loneliness can be severely detrimental to health and quality of life of an individual. In the UK, GPs say they see between one and five people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely. Loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, a UK Gov Poll in 2017 found that the UK is the loneliest country in Europe.
There are many causes for loneliness and each of us will experience loneliness differently. We know that loneliness can be triggered by stress, and poor physical and mental health. Loneliness is as much about our connection with ourselves as it with others – when we feel good about ourselves, it is easier to connect.
There are key life points which will increase the likelihood of feeling lonely, such as:
• Going through a relationship break-up
• Suffering a bereavement
• Living alone
• Disability or mobility issues
• Serious illness
• Moving away from home
• Starting university or a new job
• Becoming a new parent
The coronavirus outbreak and lockdown risks making even more of us feel lonely – and sadly, people who are already isolated and lonely may become more vulnerable than ever. But just because we are no longer able to socialise in person, does not mean we must stop socialising altogether.
Here are tips for understanding loneliness and helping yourself and others feel more connected during this challenging period:
• Send a letter or postcard to someone isolating by themselves
• Organise a weekly video call with friends or family
• Reach out to a friend to remind them you are always there to talk
• Arrange to watch a film at the same time as a friend and video call
• Share your experiences of loneliness on social media – you might encourage others to share as well!
• Arrange a video call with someone you have not seen in a while
• Talk with friends or family about their experiences of loneliness during lockdown
• Start or join a virtual book or film club
• Join a virtual pub quiz
• Spend some time in nature or tend to some indoor plants
• Start or join a WhatsApp or email group for your street. It is a great way to connect with your neighbours
• If you know a neighbour who is self-isolating, post a letter under their door to ask if they need help with groceries or errands
• Have a cup of tea with your neighbour -while maintaining appropriate distance
• Reach out to a local charity and volunteer your support
• Reach out to a friend, family member or neighbour who is experiencing loneliness or isolation.
• Discuss what might help someone who is feeling lonely
• Draw a picture of what loneliness feels like
• Remember to discuss loneliness openly and positively – loneliness is normal and common.
• Host a weekly social to catch up with colleagues – but try not to talk about work!
• Encourage employees to reach out to their HR manager if they are feeling lonely
• ‘Meet’ a colleague for a virtual coffee or lunch
• Lend your ear – phone or video call a colleague and ask how they are finding the change in routine
• Email supporters or clients to let them know what you are doing to combat loneliness and promote greater understanding
• Use this time to build stronger employee and team relationships by getting to know each other better
So whether your friend has told you they’re lonely, you suspect your colleague, course mate or neighbour might be, or you just want to help more widely, here are some ways we can all work together to tackle this growing issue
• Strike up a conversation with your colleague or neighbour and discover the shared interests that are often the key to friendship.
• If you suspect a neighbour or a friend is lonely, stop by for a chat or invite them over for a cuppa, likewise if there’s always someone on their own in your local pub, or even at lunch in your workplace.
• Alternatively you could set regular coffee dates or arrange to grab lunch and chat, which could be weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
• Loneliness is disproportionately high among disabled people and older people. You can get involved in local volunteer programmes which support disabled and older people such as Age UK or Manor Gardens Befriending Service.
• Medical intervention - if you or someone you know have been feeling lonely for a long time, make an appointment to see your GP to make sure that you are getting the right support.
We can only truly tackle loneliness if we all play our part – and simple everyday actions really do help!