For our feature in this issue, we wanted to spotlight Mental Health Awareness Week which is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and is a great opportunity to pause and reflect on our wellbeing and mental health. This annual event started 21 years ago and is one of the biggest awareness weeks in the UK and across the world! Each year the week has a different theme.
The Mental Health Foundation shares that loneliness is affecting more and more of us in the UK and has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic. This may feel especially relevant, Coram Voice surveyed more than 1,800 care leavers and found that around a fifth (22 per cent) reported high levels of loneliness. Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health and we need to find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness. Reducing loneliness is a major step towards a mentally healthy society.
What is loneliness?
Young Minds say: We can all feel lonely sometimes for many different reasons, including at times of difficult change in our lives, such as moving to a new area, because of relationships or friendships ending, or because of a bereavement. Sometimes, we can feel lonely even if we are around lots of people or have lots of friends. Social media can make us feel extremely isolated, especially if we are being bullied or feel disconnected from the ‘perfect lives’ we see. Even if we have loads of followers, it can feel like everyone else is surrounded by friends and loved ones and having a good time; this can make things feel much harder when we are feeling alone and not sure who to turn to for support.
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....
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.
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. Use the support of your keyworker or therapist to find creative ways to share and express how you are feeling.
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, but you’re likely to find people who are very happy and willing to help you settle in. If you’re not sure what you might be interested in why not use your Sports, Culture and Arts time with your Keyworker to try out some new and different things!
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. Vinspired have lots of volunteering opportunities which you can search for according to where you live. Check out their website here.
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 finding ways to connect with others in the community who enjoy similar things. Find ways to connect with the things you love and you might be surprised about what opportunities that leads to.
Talk to someone you trust, your keyworker, therapist, social worker, PA, your GP; there are lots of people who can listen, empathise, and find ways to support you. Feeling lonely can be such an isolating experience and we can feel like we are only person to have ever felt this way. As you can see from this year’s theme of Loneliness for Mental Health Awareness week, this is simply not the case, millions of people feel this way every day.