For Loneliness Awareness Week 2020 local Time to Change Champion Zoe shares her thoughts and experiences of how loneliness effects our mental health and how those in our lives can help us fight against loneliness to improve our mental health.
Loneliness and Mental Health
This week marks National Loneliness Awareness Week. Loneliness and mental health both tie into each other a lot more than people realize. In this blog, I hope to explore more how these two concepts intertwine, and ways that we can help to improve the negative mental health that loneliness may cause.
How Mental Illness Can Make You Lonely:
There are many different reasons why mental illness can make you experience loneliness.
The first is that people with mental illness can quite often shut themselves off to the outside world. Going out can be extremely daunting (especially for people with agoraphobia- a fear of open spaces, and with social anxiety), and people with mental illness will often say no to socializing due to their illness. This isolation can make people feel really lonely, and sometimes can mean that friends will avoid inviting them out.
If you know somebody with mental illness, still inviting friends out can be really helpful. Even if the answer is usually ‘no’, it can help the person struggling know that you do still care, and then the option is open when they do feel more comfortable going out.
Another good way of helping someone who is struggling going out with mental illness is to make sure you keep in touch with them whether over the phone, on social media or by letter. Feeling like you have people there can be such a help and make you feel a lot less lonely. It doesn’t have to be much, it could be a simple ‘how are you?’ that can make a huge difference to somebody who is going through a hard time.
Mental illness is also very isolating in itself. When you have mental illness, it can feel like you are the only person in the world who is going through it, and that nobody understands what you are going through. And while everybody has a completely difference experience of mental illness, there are so many people who are there to support you, and who understand how debilitating life can be for someone who is suffering. If you want to support somebody struggling with their mental health, one of the best ways to do so is to just be a listening ear. You do not in anyway need to have all of the answers, but allowing the person to open up to you can be a huge step to them feeling like they are not so alone in their struggles.
How Loneliness Can Affect Our Mental Health:
The current pandemic has made our lives so much more isolated. We can no longer see the people we usually do, and even when we can, can not have the contact with them that can really help us in our day to day lives. For many people, this contact is one of their support systems, and many more people are experiencing poor mental health during this period of lockdown.
There are also a large amount of people who are on their own during this time. This can be especially scary for them, especially people who are shielding and rely on other people in order to care for them at this time. So many people are struggling due to being isolated and not being able to see friends and family.
It is more important than ever that we keep in touch with those who matter most to us. We are so lucky to have social media during this time, and programs such as Zoom are being used so much more to replicate that in-face experience as much as possible.
With lockdown regulations slowly being lifted, it may be helpful to a lot of people to go out to exercise, or even a socially distanced meeting with those close to them. It is of course extremely important to follow the rules in place but small meetings like this and seeing people face-to-face can greatly help the mental health of those who have been feeling particularly lonely during the lockdown. If you know somebody who is living on their own, inviting them out to meet up from a distance could be a really helpful thing for them and how they are feeling.
The most important thing is to remember that we are all in this together. We will all see each other very soon and it is so important to help each other in any way we can!!
“How Kindness Can Impact Our Mental Health
In the light of recent circumstances, the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week has been changed to ‘kindness’. In a world that is currently dominated by the virus, it is more important than ever that we show kindness to each other. Kindness is often so important for people who are struggling with their mental health and there are many different ways that being kind can have a positive impact on our lives.
Kindness towards Others
When people are kind towards us, it can turn a bad day into a good day instantly. For people with mental illness, the smallest of tasks can seem like the tallest of mountains. When our friends and family help, it can change our perspective and show us that the mountain is just a hill – still a challenge but the summit is in sight. A huge example of this that I have experienced is the patience that both my friends and family have shown when I was struggling to leave the house, due to the lightheadedness that I experience with my anxiety. The fact that they never gave up on me was huge and helped to eventually go out a lot farther with a lot less fear.
When I was at my lowest point with my depression, my teachers and friends at college showed so much kindness, going out of their way to make my everyday more life that little more comfortable. They helped me when I had panic attacks, talked me through the content I missed, and helped to make me laugh and smile when the only thing that I thought I could do was cry. Having that safety blanket was such a comfort, and without the people around me at the time, there was no way that I would have made it through college.
Kindness towards Ourselves
Taking care of ourselves is so important, especially at the moment when we are a lot more likely to struggle with our mental health. This goes beyond the common knowledge of ‘self-care’. Although relaxing with a bath bomb and face mask can help to take our minds of things, there are far more ways that we can be kind to ourselves.
One of these is establishing the fact that it is okay to feel stressed and worried in times like this. This is a situation that none of us could have even imagined let alone it being one that nobody has experienced before. The sudden changing of the world is a very new and scary experience. Feeling nervous is a natural, human reaction to such a drastic change in our lives- and that’s okay! If we didn’t feel worried, we would not put the steps in place to protect ourselves. The important thing is to try to not let that fear consume us. It is to notice that the fear is there, accept the fear is there but to not let it get to a point where it has a serious impact on our lives. If the news puts you on edge, if social media is too intense- step away from it. Find that off button and try to occupy yourself with something that brings you joy. Taking care of yourself is far more important than hearing daily statistics.
For me, being kind to myself has included stepping away from things in order to protect my mental health. This included the decision to not go to university, so that I could work on improving my mental health instead of making it worse by continuing the stress that I found education brought into my life. It can be really hard but saying no in order to protect your mental health, can be one of the most vital ways to be kind to yourself, especially if like me, you always want to please others.
Being Kind to a stranger
Small acts of kindness towards a stranger can make such a huge difference to somebody’s day. It may not only help to make a bad day so much better, but also remind us how we are all here together in this world. For someone suffering with mental illness, going out can bring on large amounts of anxiety. Small acts of kindness can help people to feel so much more comfortable, possibly even making it easier for them to go out in the future.
Recently, a lot of the kindness I have witnessed has been from strangers on the internet. As I have started to share my story online, I have felt more and more accepted from all the lovely comments and messages I have received from people. To copy this kindness, I am sending out packages to help put a smile on some of the people that have been so welcoming to myself online. I hope by doing this, I can help to reciprocate the kindness that they have shown me, and to potentially help them to make it through such a hard time that we are all experiencing right now.
Kindness is so important in the world we live in. I hope that this Mental Health Awareness week, we can all be that bit kinder to both ourselves and others- we can get through this as long as we stick together!!”
The Portsmouth and Southampton Time to change hub is delivered in partnership by Southampton City Council and Portsmouth City Council, co-ordinated by Solent Mind.
We are committed to the Hub being led by Champions. There are many ways that registered Champions can get involved in the direction of the Hub, including joining us at Steering Group meetings. If you’d like to find out more please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are looking for support with your mental health or wellbeing at this difficult time, please visit our services page.