On October 15th 2018 Theresa May launched the first cross-Government strategy to tackle Loneliness. Funding was also made available to help communities build stronger connections in a bid to alleviate social isolation.
Throughout our lives there are certain circumstances which can lead us to feel lonely. The triggers are common and run alongside life changes.
- Becoming a parent – especially if you are a younger parent
- Leaving care
- The break-up of a long-term relationship/marriage
- Bereavement – loss of a partner
- Becoming a full-time carer, for example looking after an elderly parent
- Suffering redundancy/unemployment
- Suffering from empty-nest when the kids leave home
Of course, there are other life issues which can cause us to feel alone too.
Loneliness has been declared as one of the biggest public health challenges of our time and this led to The Prime Minister confirming that by 2023 all GP’s across England will be able to refer patients to community activities and services. This will be called ‘social prescribing’; basically writing a prescription for ‘social interaction’. Every day, across the UK people are making calls to the emergency services for issues which do not really require a callout. They are simply lonely. GP’s have many patients who make an appointment to just have a chat.
It is great news that the issue of being lonely is out in the open and being spoken about; measures are being put in place to help the vulnerable.
It is reported that 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative for one month; this is absolutely shocking.
Sometimes we may seek solitude, but long-term isolation has a detrimental effect on our health and well-being.
Social media and websites such as The Group Hug can enable people to connect and make new acquaintances. Although it cannot replace that physical face-to-face interaction, it can help to alleviate the feeling of complete isolation. There are opportunities for like-minded people to connect in the forum or within the Facebook group and meet if they wish. Small local networks have been built. There have been many cases of people meeting-up through the site and becoming firm friends. Feeling lonely is an unfortunate reality for many and it can affect anyone at anytime across all social backgrounds.
So, what can you do if you feel all alone? There is help out there and it is not a sign of weakness to admit that you are feeling on your own. Have you tried the Meetup App? It’s a super way to make new local friends. Simply enter your information, what you like to do and hey presto, you will start to get invitations to things you might like to engage in… walking, pub lunches, talks. Don’t feel shy about attending as most of the people in the group probably felt exactly like you; hence why they joined the group. Many of the meet-ups are free.
If you are a new parent, there are plenty of baby and toddler groups, so seek them out. You don’t need to pay fortunes to go to a fancy class, reach out to your local church as the majority of them will have some kind of baby group running. Take a look at your local community centre to see what they are offering too. Remember that these are for Dad’s too. Gone are the days when a Dad should feel awkward at a children’s group.
Separating from a partner or becoming unhitched, often leaves people feeling lonely. Some friends disappear from the radar as they don’t want to choose which camp they are in, others simply ditch you as you are no longer part of a couple and other, so-called friends dump you for no apparent reason, but maybe they are jealous of your strength or many say that a single man or woman is suddenly a threat to the stability of their own relationship.
The biggest thing, is not to be in ‘victim’ mode for too long, you have to find the strength to reach out and get on with your life as there are opportunities. These may not be so easy to find if you are housebound or elderly. A counsellor, coach or therapist can help you to look forward and have life goals again. There will be things you want to do to achieve if you look hard enough. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and we need a helping hand to ease ourselves out.