Posted on: 09 October 2020
One common description of loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. Remember that everyone has different requirements for what they feel is ‘enough’ contact with others.
According to the charity MIND, feeling lonely isn't in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely; at the same time, feeling lonely can also have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time.
It’s not unusual
Loneliness in society is on the rise, especially in young people, with over nine million adults saying they are often or always lonely. Social isolation can engender poorer mental and physical health, which harms our wellbeing in the long-term.
It’s not something that people often talk about, but many of us experience loneliness at some point in our lives. Common life events like ill-health, going through a relationship break-up, or moving to a new area can lead to feeling isolated and alone. Your circumstances can also make you more vulnerable to feeling lonely – for instance if you’re a single parent or a carer.
What to do about it
Meeting new people or building deeper connections with those you know already can seem incredibly intimidating. Start small to build up your confidence and don’t put yourself under pressure!
A good start might be simply being around other people, without the pressure of trying to strike up a conversation. Try going to a café or taking a walk in the park and just take note of your surroundings.
Try to open up
You might feel that you know plenty of people, but what is actually wrong is that you don't feel close to them, or they don't give you the care and attention you need. In this situation it might help to open up about how you feel to friends and family, or if that’s not possible, talk with a therapist about how you’re feeling (see EAP, below).
If you are feeling lonely because of a lack of satisfying social contact in your life, you could try to meet more, or different people*. One option is joining a club or class based on your interests – e.g. crafts, cooking, learning a new language or sport. You’ll immediately have something in common with others taking the class and having an activity to focus on takes the pressure off you to socialise.
Support over the phone
Some employers have benefits programmes which can contain a variety of mental wellbeing resources, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). It would be worth checking with your employer to see if this a service they provide and what other support you may be able to receive.
An EAP is a confidential service providing people with a 24/7 helpline whereby you can speak with a trained advisor about anything that’s worrying you and get actionable advice. You can also arrange sessions with a professional counsellor, either over the phone or by meeting face-to-face. EAPs offer advice on a huge range of complex issues; although sometimes all that’s required is someone to share a problem with in the wee small hours.
*In accordance with Government guidelines
 Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Final Report, (2017) p.6.Accessed at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/active-communities/rb_dec17_jocox_commission_finalreport.pdf
 Jo Griffin/Mental Health Foundation, The Lonely Society, (2010) p.6. Accessed at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/the_lonely_society_report.pdf