Loneliness and Isolation

Loneliness and isolation contribute to depression,  anxiety and even dementia.

This blog brings together ideas for how we can encourage those experiencing loneliness to build connections to enhance their wellbeing.

Introduction

At the November MHFAiders Networking Group, at the request of one of the participants we considered how we might best support those experiencing isolation and loneliness as we continue to collectively experience difficult times. Whilst we accepted that you can feel lonely when not actually alone, for the purposes of the discussion we considered loneliness in the context of lockdown, working from home and self-isolating.

    Connections are important

    Research into factors that have a positive impact on overall wellbeing consistently include connection as a factor: 

    • The New Economics Foundation in their 5 Ways to Wellbeing identified Connecting as one of the ways.  Whether this was to family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, the local or wider community.  
    • Action for Happiness have Relating as one of the Ten Keys to Happiness.

      Signs that someone is experiencing loneliness

      We may notice others signs and symptoms associated with stress, anxiety and depression, but often the case we will be looking out for changes behaviour:

      • Becoming more withdrawn
      • Have a sense of them being disconnected
      • Lack of care with appearance
      • Everything may appear magnified to them – small issues become all consuming
      • Express emotions of despair, emptiness, sadness, fearful, frustrated
      • Talking a lot – off loading because they haven’t spoken to anyone else

      Support and information

      As MHFAiders we can provide support and information. This can include ways that people may try and make small changes to help mitigate the feeling of loneliness. There are also things we can do within the workplace. We need to be mindful that people have different levels of need for connection and will have different preferences for communicating with others.

      Ideas collated by the group

        • A simple and arguably one of the most effective ways of doing this is just picking up the phone and asking how they are, and really listening – using non-judgemental listening skills, to their reply.  
        • Drop them a quick ‘How are you?’ by email or text.  Virtual coffee drop-in session
        • Pick up a new interest or set a new goal – make it realistic and achievable
        • Encourage the setting of a regular routine for the world we are living in now
        • Share regular business communications that give specific, relevant ideas. Vary them to engage with different demographics and personalities
        • Get together virtually to do something.  One member of the group met up with a couple of people for a regular virtual art afternoon
        • Sit down for meals or a drink at the same time and chat over Zoom
        • Online social events 
        • Talk to neighbours
        • Make a point of saying hello to others when out for a walk.
        • Remind people about all the aspects of wellbeing they can work on.  Building our overall resources enables us to cope better with the areas we can’t control

        Small things matter

        We do not need to over complicate things, sometimes a ‘hello’ in passing whilst out walking, a short ‘thinking of you message’ or phone conversation can make a real difference to a person’s whole day.

        What can you do today to make a difference to someone?

          Contact us for details

          Protea Solutions provides a range of training options to support employee mental health including Mental Health First Aid courses accredited by MHFA England. These are offered as both public open courses and run within organisations. Contact us to find out how we can help you support your employees or contact us if you would like to find out more information and join our next MHFA Networking and Support Group.

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