Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

9th May 2022 - 15th May 2022

This year the theme is “Loneliness”. Read on to find out more.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is a normal part of life, with most of us feeling lonely at some point and experiencing how it can gnaw away at our sense of self-worth and belonging. 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. Loneliness is the 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. This Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to give loneliness the attention that it deserves, bringing it out from the shadows where it so often is hidden. Together we will expel the shame we often feel and how many of us still struggle to talk about loneliness and how it is affecting our mental health.

When might we feel lonely?

Loneliness can be difficult to cope with and can start to affect our mental health, making us feel sad, depressed, or giving us feelings of low self-esteem. Sometimes, if we are already struggling with our mental health it can feel difficult for us to interact with our loved ones in the way we usually do. This can then make us feel isolated and lonely when we didn’t feel this way before. But life doesn’t have to be this way; if you’re feeling lonely, there are things you can do to feel better. You may also find you may feel lonely when:

  • You start a new school, university or place of work and are finding it hard to make friends
  • You experience a bereavement or loss of someone close to you
  • A relationship or friendship changes
  • You go through something that your peers haven’t or are unable to relate to
  • You feel very different from your peers or people around you
  • You aren’t able to do the things you see others doing
  • You are struggling with your sexuality or gender identity

Things you can do to stop yourself from feeling lonely:

  • Focus on self-love. Spending time alone might not seem fun, but the more time you spend doing things you enjoy and being kind to yourself the more confident you will feel. It’s ok to have time just for yourself.
  • Express your feelings. It is important to have ways to express yourself, even if right now you don’t have people close to you who you can talk to. Keeping a journal can help you to track your mood and reading over it might help you to see things that keep happening in your life which you might need some help with. Some people like to express themselves through drawing, painting, music, fashion or sport.
  • Join a club. You don’t have to be good at something to give it a go and enjoy it. A regular hobby with other people can help you build new friendships and have fun. It can feel really nerve-wracking to turn up to a new place, especially if the people already know each other, but you’re likely to find people who are very happy and willing to help you settle in.
  • Try volunteering. This can be a great way to learn a new skill, give back to your community, feel good about yourself and meet people passionate about the same things as you. Ask around at school or college, or research online for opportunities to volunteer.
  • Follow your passions. If there is something you absolutely love there will be other people out there who feel the same. Whether that’s an online fan forum or a local writers’ group, find ways to connect with the things you love and you might be surprised about what opportunities that leads to.
  • Reach out if you’re struggling. Talk to someone you trust. It could be your parents or wider family members, like older cousins, aunts or uncles. Outside home, it could be a teacher, a neighbour or a close family friend. You can also speak to your GP or nurse about how you’re feeling. They can listen, tell you about local services and support groups, or they may suggest specific treatment for the way you’re feeling.

You’re not alone

It’s really important to be kind to ourselves and to remember that you are not the only who might be feeling lonely. That’s why it’s really important to reach out for help, not for our self but to also connect with others who may be struggling. Together we can combat loneliness and fulfilment.