A Loneliness Epidemic?
Loneliness can have such an impact on the physical and mental health of the population. It is something that can impact people of any age. From children spending hours in their bedrooms looking at a screen to adults struggling to find the motivation to get up in the morning. The effect is very similar – that of the belief that no one likes or cares about them. Left to fester, this belief can turn towards suicidal thoughts and actions. I have blogged about suicide related to men and teenagers.
As The Guardian newspaper reports here, it is not something that can be fixed overnight or by one individual. It is suggested that there needs to be a nationwide effort to put support measures in place. This can take many forms from telephone support lines to activity groups to making small conversations with people you meet. However, as a species, humans have become adept at ‘putting on a brave face’ and pretending to the world that everything is alright.
But How Do We Know There’s A Problem?
If we are all so good at hiding our loneliness or social isolation, how are we supposed to support others? It could be a matter of taking the time to strike up conversation with a neighbour. Alternatively, choosing to use the ‘manned’ checkout (rather than self-service) and give the operator a smile. Small gestures but they may go a long way. I suppose the answer to the question above is that we don’t need to know. Just taking the time to interact with real people in real situations could be enough.
Of course there are people where the epidemic has really taken hold and more proactive action may be required. People that are truly isolated through a physical incapacity, for example. In cases such like this it is much harder to reach out. Potentially, it’s about raising awareness to those in need through the communication channels they are using. These could be things such as social media, television and radio.
It has been heartening to see adverts relating to mental health during major broadcasts. Furthermore, there are an ever increasing amount of celebrities speaking out about very real challenges in their personal lives. It’s becoming OK to talk openly about your mental health. As a counsellor I see many people that have taken the step to talk to someone. I have worked with many clients that have felt quite cut off from friends, family and society. Low self-esteem is a common problem. However, it is not a permanent way of life. It does not need to be set in stone. Much can be achieved and improved by talking to someone without judgement, in a safe and confidential space.