For the last 21 years, organisations across the UK and further afield come together to mark Mental Health Awareness Week in early May. With one in four of us experiencing a mental health problem each year, this is an important moment for us all to help raise awareness of and take steps to support our own and others’ mental health.
This year’s theme, set by the Mental Health Foundation, is loneliness—a feeling that arises when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships remains unmet, and that has an enormous impact on our mental wellbeing.
New research has shown that loneliness has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic; today, one in four adults experience it some or all of the time.
With this in mind, we’ve pulled together five ideas that may help our members cope with loneliness:
- Give running a go: physical activity, meeting like-minded people, and doing things you enjoy are all great ways to combat loneliness. Read some first-hand accounts.
- Visit pastures new: travelling also provides an excellent opportunity to get moving, indulge your interests and spend time with others. A quick internet search will reveal a multitude of options and inspiration for those looking for solo, family, wellbeing or self-guided tours, weekends away and days out.
- Spend time with animals: research shows that pets help reduce stress levels and support wellbeing. Dog owners have 69 per cent more social interactions than those without a dog. So, why not borrow a friend, family member or neighbour’s dog and head out for a stroll, or see if you can volunteer at your local animal shelter.
- Connect: as well as making a difference to those around us, actively engaging with our communities can improve our own wellbeing. You could check in with a neighbour who might need some help, join a local class or group, or perhaps drop a line to a friend you’ve not heard from in a while.
- Talk to an expert: NHS practitioners provide free talking therapies that can help overcome loneliness. You can refer yourself without a referral from a GP and get help in person, by video, over the phone or online.