The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Government advice designed to keep us safe is under constant review and will be different depending on where you live: more details and up to date information here.
One of the feelings millions of us are experiencing during the current coronavirus pandemic is loneliness. In our combined efforts to stay safe and save lives, our usual ways of seeing family, friends or just familiar faces have been put on pause.
What to do if you are feeling lonely
- Try calling a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor to talk about your feelings.
- You could also contact Samaritans, call: 116 123 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you need someone to talk to.
- Join an online group or class that focuses on something you enjoy – that could be anything from an online exercise class, book club etc.
- Consider going for short walks in public places (while keeping a two metre distance).
This is a challenging and sometimes lonely time, but it will pass. There will be lots of hugs, shared pots of tea, parties and celebrations in the future. For now, let’s be as kind as possible to ourselves and others.
Helping others who might be experiencing loneliness
One idea is to get in touch with someone who lives alone or might not have many relatives or close connections to check in on them. A message or a phone call could make a big difference to someone who hasn’t heard from anyone in a while.
If it’s a neighbour, you could even share something you’ve baked with them – at a safe distance! If you know someone who struggles with technology, now could be a good time to talk them through setting up something like Skype or Zoom at home. This could make a huge difference to their social interactions in future.
How lonely are UK adults feeling?
According to a survey* of UK adults which took place nine months into Covid-19 restrictions ( late November) one in four (24%) adults in the UK said they had feelings of loneliness in the “previous two weeks”. Loneliness levels were higher in young people, people who are unemployed, full time students and single parents in each wave of the survey which has tracked the mental health of the nation since March. On a more positive note, the results shows that three in four of the overall population have not been experiencing loneliness according to the survey.* This shows great resilience during this time of isolation and shows that many of us are adapting our ways of keeping in contact with people. Doing good is good for our mental health, so now could a good opportunity to help someone else who might be feeling lonely.
How does loneliness affect our mental health?
Many of us feel lonely from time to time and these short-term feelings shouldn’t harm our mental health. However, the longer the pandemic goes on for, the more these feelings become long-term.
Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be very hard to manage.
What can we do to prevent loneliness?
There are currently a range of restrictions across the UK. That means we need to adapt how we connect with people and find new ways to stay in touch during this time. Now, more than ever, is the time to keep up those strong social networks that act like a buffer against poor mental health. We have had to rely on technology a lot more for communication throughout 2020 and now in 2021. While it has been a valuable tool, many might feel exhausted by online quizzes or experience ‘Zoom fatigue’. However, staying connected to friends and family is vital to protect our mental health. If you are feeling burnout from the ways you connect with people, try out some new ways in 2021. For example, switching back to voice calls might be more appealing if you use video calls for work. Sending a text or even a voice-note to someone if a call seems like too much maintains connection and allows people to know you’re thinking of them. If you miss having hobbies or social outlets, joining an online book club or an online language exchange is another great way to connect. Some sports broadcasters even allow fans to select matches to watch in an online video room with friends. With a little research, you might find something that’s right for you. If you’re not tech savvy, regular phone calls, messages or even writing letters are lovely ways to show someone that you’re thinking of them.
It’s not just you
Remember, no one is exempt from feeling lonely at times. All of us, at some point or other during this coronavirus pandemic, will feel cut off from our loved ones. However, some of us will have greater access to technology than others, or more social connections.
By caring for each other, checking in on people who are more isolated, or even volunteering for a helpline, we can help prevent a loneliness epidemic.
For more ways of looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak check out our Coronavirus advice hub.
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,436 UK adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th and the 30th November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
Would you like to help others?
Training for Life offer mental health training courses for a range of individuals and groups (including for youth MHFA and MHFA for professionals). We also provide training courses for personal development purposes, aiding individuals with public speaking, confidence building and more.