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Loneliness for men (Let's Talk Mate - Episode 9)

On the latest episode of Let's Talk Mate, Solent Mind's men's mental health chat, the group spoke about loneliness for men, especially during the festive period.


While the period over Christmas and the New Year is meant to be one of joy, for many people it can be an especially lonely time of year.

Research conducted by Mind shows that that a third (36%) of people feel too embarrassed to admit they are lonely, and one in five people feel they have nowhere to turn for support.*

General loneliness in men is also a huge problem, with 1 in 10 men feeling lonely, but unable to admit this to anyone.*

On the latest episode of Let’s Talk Mate, released on Christmas Day, the group discussed loneliness for men. Lachlan Marais-Gilchrist, Outreach Coordinator for iTalk, hosted the episode and was joined by; Rob Eamey, Community Peer Recovery Lead and Daniel Warren-Holland, Programme Lead for Employment and Inclusion.

Content Warning: The podcast will feature conversations around suicide.

Full episodes available on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SolentMind1/posts/4630988276986592?notif_id=1640454174837321¬if_t=page_post_reaction&ref=notif

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9mNnBP2NBM

And an audio version is available on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1ojhKa6r4IBaNycf7k9KeJ?si=f48738c94cff4598

Isolation vs Loneliness

Loneliness is defined as the emotion of sadness at the state of being alone. While loneliness can sometimes come as a result of isolation, the two are not the same, and the feeling of one doesn’t always come with the state of the other.

Many people feel perfectly satisfied or even happy in isolation, while some can still feel loneliness even when they are not alone.

Lachlan provided an alternative definition to loneliness on the podcast: “We tend to see loneliness defined as a feeling that affects us when we find that the quality of our relationships is less than we would want.”

Rob then replied: “I think that does ring true with me, and it can be easy to have that misconception of ‘how can someone be lonely when they have all these people around them?’

“Especially historically, Christmas is a time I’ve always struggled, and at the very least I’d be spending it with family; parents and siblings. Those are all positive relationships, but I still felt incredibly lonely at points.”

The group also discussed Christmas period specific pressure, whether that be financial pressure, or pressure to be social around this time of year.

“The social pressures, the financial pressures: every Christmas film you watch is all about family and coming together, all these extravagant presents, I watched Home Alone the other day and the size of that kids house for a start,” Daniel explained.

“Not that it puts pressure on me to buy a big house, but that’s the expectation of Christmas, this perfectly decorated mansion of Christmas joy. There is so much pressure to put on this show at this time of year, which is really challenging, especially if you don’t feel up to it or don’t want to.”

Are we taught as boys how to build connections?

The group also discussed the importance of not only friendships, but friendships that allow for meaningful connections. Which poses the question, do men find it harder than women to form meaningful connections?

Lachlan said: “Men are often encouraged to be competitive with each other, and to be quite self sufficient, but friendship kind of relies on vulnerability. So if you can’t be vulnerable with people, you are not going to be able to make meaningful connection with others, you are not going to be able to build those friendships.”

Daniel agreed and continued: “It is hard to make connections, it is not something we were really taught to do as young boys. A lot of my friends as a kid were my Mums friend’s children.

“I don’t know if women are taught how to build more meaningful connections, or they just have more natural skills. I think work environments are very competitive, where you could build connections with your peers but there is always that competition in the back of your mind of the next career progression or the next opportunity at that company.”

A good cry

Lachlan’s talk of the need for vulnerability to build meaningful connections leads directly to a conversation that centres around this question, do you feel you can cry around your friends?

All three agreed that sometimes a good cry is necessary, and being able to do that with people you feel comfortable and safe around is crucial.

Rob explained: “I didn’t really talk about this when I was young, there was very certain topics that were off the table, I talk about being able to cry with my friends.

“I can do that now, although some people I’m sure if I said ‘oh I need to have a bit of a cry’ they would probably run a mile, who wants to see a big 6 foot 4 bearded man have a breakdown and cry in front of them?”

Daniel jumped in and said: “I think that is just our perception of men, that’s how we think people are going to react to having this big 6 foot 4 loveable bear with a big beard crying, I think most people around you would want to support you through that.“But you’re right, unless you feel safe to do it, you’re going to feel like ‘oh they don’t want to see that, they don’t want to be involved in that, I have to do this on my own’. Which again is going to make you feel lonely because you don’t feel like you belong anywhere.”

The episode closed out with some advice for those feeling lonely from all three men who took part in the discussion:

*Mind research on loneliness at Christmas: https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/third-of-people-too-embarrassed-to-admit-they-are-lonely-at-christmas/#:~:text=New%20research%20released%20by%20Mind,because%20of%20the%20festive%20period.

**Jo Cox study on loneliness: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/jcf/pages/164/attachments/original/1620919309/rb_dec17_jocox_commission_finalreport.pdf?1620919309

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