This week it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and the focus this year is loneliness. “Together we can tackle loneliness”
According to the Mental Health Foundation one in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There isn’t a definite cause, and the solution isn’t a one size fits all. We are all different people from all walks of life. The issue is that the longer the loneliness goes on for that’s when mental health challenges can start.
It is very easy to look at other people and think that they have the ‘perfect’ life, ‘perfect’ relationship, ‘perfect’ job etc. But everyone is dealing with their own issues, and it may be that the person you envy is actually the person who feels the most lonely, but just cannot say.
And that is the biggest issue. People often do not admit when they are feeling lonely. It’s a hard one to verbalise. It is quite possible that you are in a relationship, perhaps also with a family and yet you are incredibly lonely. Just going about your routine, doing all the actions required of you isn’t enough to stop you feeling lonely if you don’t have that personal connection with the people around you. It’s too easy to put on the ‘face’ and keep pushing on, not allowing anyone to see how you are truly feeling.
We see teenagers doing that all the time. Teenage loneliness is increasing, even though they have social media and phones. In fact that can alienate them even more. If they are that person that isn’t included on the Snapchat, or the only one from the group not invited to a party then it can be totally devastating. If you decide you want to hurt someone, leaving them out of a group on social media is literally the worst thing you can do to that person. And many teenagers are not fully able to verbalise what they feel. They hold it in, often only releasing it through self harm, drugs, alcohol or self hatred. It’s incredibly destructive.
What’s the answer?
There isn’t a single answer, each person has to find what fits for them. The Mental Health Foundation suggest keeping busy, start a hobby, do things that stimulate your mind, a physical activity, engage with others, find people that ‘get you’, spend time with pets, use social media in a positive way or talking therapy.
As a busy mum, when my children were small, I often felt lonely, even though I was and am in a loving relationship. Sometimes you just can’t word how you are feeling or why you are feeling that way. I found being a mum to two young children incredibly isolating at times, but I was also very very busy. So the thought of taking up a hobby wouldn’t have been for me at that time. I tend to fill my time to the max, but some their other suggestions would have been useful.
What worked for me was having my group of friends. I am lucky to have a small core of really good friends whom I know I can call on. But even then it took for me to be really very low to be able to admit to where I was in my mental health. But as always, they were there for me, and still are.
It must be so challenging if you don’t have a group of friends, and then the suggestion of joining a group or taking up a hobby is a brilliant one. This can be an absolute lifesaver. Talking therapy also was good for me, helping to put things into perspective. It can be difficult to get referred for this but keep persisting if you feel it will help you.
With regards to our teenagers, we as adults can and must make space for them to feel safe and make our home an environment where they are able to talk to you if they want to. From personal experience trying to make your teenager talk when they aren’t ready is a pointless thing to do but creating a space and some time when you can be together occasionally, takes the pressure off from the ‘big talk’ and that’s often when conversation flows and things are talked about. It’s a challenge at times, but it’s a challenge worth facing and allowing time for.
So this week in particular, if you are struggling with feelings of loneliness or you know someone who is, try to reach out. Try to verbalise how you are feeling to a friend, or if you suspect someone is trying to connect with you reach out to them, open that door. New relationships can be made this way that benefit the person you are connecting with and you too. One act of kindness has a rippling affect.
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end” – Scott Adams