A Silent Epidemic: Loneliness and Mental Health

We all go through periods of loneliness in our lives, from changing social situations to relationship changes and work situations which is all part of everyday life. As we get older naturally our social patterns change from having plentiful free time to socialise with friends to having to fit in social activities around work, relationship and family commitments means that we may find that we are finding more time on our own.

The COVID 19 pandemic had an enormous impact on loneliness, people who lived alone or say single parents were forced to isolate with no other adult company and little chance of social interaction. The pandemic also led to breakdowns of relationships which could have led to increased feelings of loneliness, even if the partner was still present within the home, due to the lack of communication that presents with a relationship breakdown or the negative environment.

Loneliness isn’t about the number of friends or family members we have, the time we spend on our own or how frequently we can socialise in a work or day to day life setting it is more a feeling that we experience when there is a mismatch between the connections that are present in our lives and how they fit in or are needed to help with what we are feeling, need or desire at certain stages. For example, in the case of a relationship breakdown we may find that we require more support from loved ones but it may be difficult to communicate to them about how they can help us.

Although this is something that many will experience at one stage in their lived it is when loneliness is chronic or longer term that it can have serious effects on our mental health and lead to additional mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression. Chronic or long term loneliness can often be accompanied by negative thoughts and emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and self-doubt.

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9 to 15 May) is loneliness. The 2022 Tackling loneliness evidence review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Loneliness Evidence Group describes loneliness as being associated with a range of mental health problems. These include anxiety, depression psychosis and even suicidal thoughts.

Chronic loneliness can take a serious toll on mental health. Reaching out is difficult, and you may feel self conscious of your situation or how loneliness is affecting you but there is a great deal of support out there and we have skilled and experienced counsellors who have worked with chronic loneliness and the toll that it can take on mental health. If you or a loved one is struggling, get in touch to learn more about what we can do to support you.

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